Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Worst To Best: Stephen King Movies (and TV), 2016 Edition

It's overdue, and will need to be updated yet again a year from now (and probably the next year, and the one after that, and so forth), but here it is at last: an updated ranking of King-based movies and tv shows.
  
I've changed the way I'm ranking the television series this time around.  Previously, I ranked each season of each series separately.  That's a fair way of doing things, especially for a series like The Dead Zone, which varies wildly in quality from season to season.  However, it's not easy to figure out at all in the case of, say, Haven: it's a show that ranges from awful to mediocre to decent to good, sometimes within the span of a single season.  How do you rank such a thing?  I made a stab at it last time, but it never satisfied me.  So we'll try it this way and see how that works.
  
One exception: in the case of the anthology series Nightmares & Dreamscapes, I thought it made sense to rank the episodes separately.  They are completely distinct from one another, so that was no challenge.
  
Finally, I've left off the few Dollar Baby films that I included last time.  They're simply not playing on the same field as everything else.
  
I'll probably reuse a lot of the text from previous posts in this series.  I'm lazy that way.  Plus, I like some of that stuff; why pitch out the baby with the bathwater?  I've made significant revisions in some places, and have left other sections alone entirely.
  
I followed tradition by NOT consulting my old rankings prior to creating these new ones; I let my current way of thinking dictate the rankings.


Honorable Mention #1 -- Stranger Things (2016)


 

I know at least one reader of this blog -- and maybe two -- who will be put into a state of grumpiness by this series being included on my list.

I feel your pain, guys, and under many circumstances I would probably share it.

Let's no no mistakes about this: Stranger Things is not adapted from anything by Stephen King.  However, you can make a claim that a few other things on this list could be described the same way.  Should the fact that those are, legally-speaking, King adaptations be the only factor that sets them apart?

I honestly don't know the answer to that question.  With that in mind, let me announce now that at some point within the next howeverlong, I'm going to write a post reviewing all eight episodes of Stranger Things in an attempt to answer that question.  Because here is a list of things that I know:

  • Whether it does or doesn't have any legal ability to do so, Stranger Things does pull some significant and specific inspiration from (among other things) the works of Stephen King.  I can't ignore that.
  • Thanks to the massive popularity of the series, Stephen King's name got mentioned in the media press a LOT this summer.  I can't ignore that.
  • I loved Stranger Things.  It got overhyped for some people (including the two to whom I alluded a moment ago), but others took it to heart in a way that doesn't happen all that often.  Among those, one of my closest friends, who has actually requested that I write a post like that one is going to end up being.  I certainly can't ignore that!
  • The world is changing.  Mashup culture is here in full force, and shows no signs of going away.  If things continue down that road, then we could well get to a place where an unofficial inspired-by-the-works-of piece of storytelling like this one becomes considered by many to be just as genuine an adaptation as an actual remake of, say, Firestarter would be.  Part of me would LOVE to ignore that; but I can't.

So like I said, I'm going to, in the not-too-distant future, do some blogging and see if I can figure out where I truly stand on the issue.  For now, though, I think I'm honor-bound to at least give Stranger Things an official Honorable Mention.  Would I ever consider actually ranking it on a list like this one?

For now, that's a definite "no."

Things don't necessarily stay as they have been, however.  Time will tell.


Honorable Mention #2 -- Horns (2013)




Well, fuck it, why not?

Horns is not based on anything created by Stephen King, but it's based on a novel by Joe Hill, who, by virtue of being Stephen King's son, was himself partially created by Stephen King.  So there's that.  It'd be a flimsy rationale to use in putting Horns on this list as a ranked entrant, but I can make it work for an Honorable Mention status.

The movie had a tortured history in some ways; after a festival screening in 2013, it languished unreleased and unseen until October of the following year, when it was unceremoniously dumped onto iTunes and a few similar services.  I've got nothing against VOD, iTunes, etc.  However, I feel as if every movie needs to be sold differently based on its merits, and on the perceived potential size of the fanbase.  And to me, it feels like Horns was capable of more than what it got.  Horror had been on a hot-streak circa October of 2014, especially when it came to anything involving demons.  As an extra added bonus, the novel -- and, indeed, the movie -- works fairly well as a tragic romance, a quasi-fantasy, a satire, and a murder mystery.  In other words, there's isn't merely one potential audience for this film, there are several.
 
Add to that the fact that the movie stars Daniel Radcliffe, who is arguably one of the best-known movie stars in the entire world.  Granted, that's mostly on the basis of the Harry Potter movies; but his presence helped turn The Woman in Black into a hit, and it could have done the same for Horns.

So really, this ought to have been an easy-to-market film that had a gross of $50 million domestic at a bare minimum.  Find the exact right release date, and maybe you could get $75 mil.  Then, later, you can get all the money from ancillary markets like VOD, Blu-ray, etc.  That didn't happen, and that strikes me as a shame.
   
Such considerations are important, and they're of interest to me on any number of levels.  But really, now that the movie is out, they are irrelevant.

The question now becomes: is the movie good?

The answer: it's okay.  Overall, it's a film in search of a cohesive tone.  At times it is funny, at times romantic, tragic, weird, gross, whimsical, etc.  Hill's novel is like this as well, but Hill, via his strong prose and perspective, is able to make all of these things feel as if they co-exist naturally.  Director Alexandre Aja seemingly only has one mode in him at a time, however, so many of the individual scenes fail to coalesce into what you'd call a unified whole.

Despite this, I think the movie works fairly well.  Daniel Radcliffe is great.  He occasionally feels as if he's forcing things a bit in order to get past the fact that he's having to speak in an American accent.  However, he does so capably, and he does very well with the extreme range of emotions his character undergoes.  This is the first time I've seen him in anything outside of the Harry Potter films, and he's gotten so much better as an actor since then that he may as well not even be the same person anymore.  He's the real deal, folks.

The rest of the cast is good, too, ranging from Juno Temple as Merrin (Ig's dead girlfriend -- say, there's some Gone Girl overlap here, too, isn't there?) to Max Minghella as Lee; Joe Anderson as Terry; Kelli Garner as Glenna; James Remar and Kathleen Quinlan, who are Ig's parents and each of whom has a dynamite scene with Radcliffe; Heather Graham as a (pardon the pun) self-serving waitress; and David Morse, who is excellent as Merrin's father.  Morse has appeared in several Stephen King movies, so it's especially welcome to see him now appearing in a Joe Hill movie.

Of which I hope there will be more to come.

By the way, in case you're wondering where I'd rank this if indeed I did rank it on this list?

Somewhere around #29 or #30, I'd say.  So all in all, not too shabby.


Dishonorable Mention -- You Can't Kill Stephen King (2014)


 

I'm not entirely sure how this garbage exists.  If I were Stephen King, I'd have my lawyers all over it.  Maybe it's classified as satire, and is therefore protected; or maybe King has given it permission to exist due to the fact that it was filmed in Maine.

All I know is that it's awful.  It's got a trio of hot women in it, none of whom get naked.  Now, look, before you accuse me of being a Trump sexist pig, let me say that I don't have any sort of expectation that attractive women get naked in movies, even horror movies, even low-budget horror movies, even low-budget exploitation-horror movies.  However, if you're going to sexualize them to the degree they are sexualized here, you may as well go ahead and get 'em naked.  You're patently expecting every straight man and gay woman in the audience to feel like wanking while watching it, so why not go ahead and be honest about it and provide the goods?  My way is more honest, and everyone knows it.  Failing that, just don't sexualize your actresses; don't try to have it both ways.

The Stephen King homages in this movie are fairly negligible, presumably because everyone was unclear whether King actually WAS going to sue or not; they seemingly didn't want to do anything that might also encourage various Hollywood studios to sue.  As a result, the entire project is half-baked at best; at when I say "at-best," please know that the movie spends the vast majority of its runtime running at significantly below an "at-best" level.  Mostly, it's an at-worst state of affairs, and that involves ill-conceived racial humor, ill-conceived war-in-Iraq references, ill-conceived implications that Stephen King nerds are perverts, and so forth.  I would point your attention to the DVD cover art, and point out to you that not only is there no real "hot girl-on-girl action" to speak of apart from one relatively chaste kiss, there are also no creepy twins except for in one brief moment.  And there's definitely no sense of humor, unless it's a lame one.

This is a genuinely awful movie.  No Stephen King fan should see it unless they are gluttons for punishment.  And yet, it's actually a better movie than the next one we'll be looking at.  Without further ado, I give you:
  
  
#96 -- Creepshow III (2007)
  
  
  
  
We begin our list proper with a piece of SKINO (Stephen King In Name Only) dung, the odious Creepshow III, which has literally nothing to do with Stephen King, George Romero, or either of the actual Creepshow movies.  This was produced by a pair of untalented opportunists who bought the rights to sequelize Creepshow in what one assumes must have been the Hollywood equivalent of a fire sale.
  
Nothing in this movie works.  Once upon a time, I amused myself greatly by writing a review of it; if you want to know more, here you go.  But trust when I tell you that you don't need to know a damn thing else: this movie is shit.  Turds turn their nose up at it.
  

  
#95 -- The Mangler Reborn (2005)
  
  
  
  
God help me, but I've actually seen this movie.  It's terrible.  I mean, really, truly terrible.  Not as terrible as Crazy Fat Ethel II -- which actually does exist -- but pretty damn terrible nonetheless.
 
This is the third in the Mangler "series" of "films," and it is about a guy who (I guess) becomes possessed by whatever malefic spirit was possessing the industrial laundry press from the original film.  So he makes a machine, kidnaps some kids, and then chops them into pieces.  I'm sure more happens than that, but it's what I remember.  Someday, when my ideas for this blog begin to run dry, I'll rewatch it, and give you a more in-depth review.
 
I promise.
 
You just keep waiting.  Check back here every day.  Three times, if possible.
 
Eventually, you'll see it.


#94 -- Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1993)




What the fuck...?!?  Are those kids inside V'Ger?
  
  
The Ilia enigma inside V'Ger, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

I'll say this for Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice: it is, at the very least, an actual sequel to Children of the Corn.  Barely; but still.  It involves the surviving kids from Gatlin being packed up by Social Services and being sent to live in some other rural midwestern town, where a reporter and his troubled teen son find themselves spending some quality time just as things start getting hinky.
  
A major subplot involves Native Americans, and this is handled with exactly the grace and subtlety one would expect.   
  
I've ranked this as THE worst of the Children of the Corn "films," but to be honest, I am uncertain whether it is in fact THE worst.  Might be; might be one of half a dozen others.  You watch 'em and let me know.


#93 -- The Mangler 2 (2002)




I met Lance Henriksen at Dragon*Con once; he was literally one of the nicest people I have ever encountered.  He's an actor, and a damn good one, so maybe it was all a sham; but I doubt it, and even if it was, you'd have to admire the effort he put into fooling me.
 
With that in mind, I cannot begin to tell you how much it depresses me that someone of his stature should have to be in a movie this bad.  This man is Bishop!  He's Frank Black!!  He starred in Near fucking Dark!!!  And THIS is the best 2002 could come up with for him?!?
 
Shameful.
 
Director Michael Hamilton-Wright -- who also wrote the film -- has not directed a movie since.  Hard to believe (what with the movie's 2.2 on IMDb), but true.
  
The story involves a computer virus that gets loose in a private school and begins using the school's high-tech security system to, like, kill people and shit.  I assume we are meant to believe that this virus is somehow a digital version of the same evil spirit that possessed an industrial laundry press earlier in its career, but it's never spelled out in such terms, so that is purely an assumption on my part.
 
There is a subordinate character -- a French chef who runs the school's kitchen -- who would, for me, rank among the worst characters in all of cinematic history.  He is played by Philippe Bergeron (who appears on the commentary track, just in case you are concerned with what he might think about all of this).  Astoundingly, Bergeron has gone on since then to appear in episodes of Alias, The Shield, The Sopranos, and Mad Men, so good for him, I guess.
  
  
#92 -- Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)
  
  
  
  
Perhaps best-known as the Children of the Corn movie that co-starred Eva Mendes in her first film role, I prefer to think of it as the Children of the Corn movie that co-stars Fred Williamson and David Carradine.

I don't remember what the movie is about, but I remember that it co-stars Alexis Arquette, which is never a good thing.  Arquette passed away a few weeks ago as of this revision (it's 9/22/16) as I write this, and you may perhaps be unaware that he later became "she."  Arquette underwent gender-reassignment before that was the hip and trendy thing to do, and I was a bit surprised by the amount of attention her passing got online.  I wish her well, wherever she has gone...
  
...but he's pretty bad in this movie.  No shame in that; so is everyone else. 



#91 --  Nightmares & Dreamscapes: "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band" (2006)




The story itself is probably not one of King's best, but it's quirky and fun and horrific in a somewhat unique way.  Thing is, it only works on the page.  The conceit -- that two lost motorists accidentally stumble into a town populated by deceased rock stars -- would be almost impossible to film well, simply because anyone playing most of the dead rockers is going to look like an actor playing a role.  The story doesn't have that problem, because our minds can supply the faces and voices.  For a filmed version to work, the casting would have to be absolutely superb.
  
The casting here is NOT absolutely superb.  Nor is the music, which is of the for-legal-reasons knockoff variety.
  
Bad stuff, y'all.


#90 -- Trucks (1997)




U-TURN, U-DIE!  U suck, slogan-writer. 
 
I can see how someone might have thought it would be a good idea to remake Maximum Overdrive and base it a little more closely on "Trucks," the Stephen King short story which served as its basis.  In theory, that could have worked.
 
It did not work in actuality, unfortunately.  In actuality, the filmmakers defied all odds and managed to produce a film that is even worse than Maximum Overdrive.  And it's not merely worse, it's worse by a large margin.
 
For one thing, the lead is Timothy Busfield, who is typically restricted to smarmy supporting roles, so right there, you know you're in for a bad time.
 
Frankly, that's all I can bear to type about this movie.  Moving on...



#89 -- Nightmares & Dreamscapes: "Crouch End" (2006)




I love the short story "Crouch End," but this television adaptation is a disaster.  The cast is awful, the visuals (especially the color palette) are utterly unappealing, and the creeping dread of the story has been replaced by lame-o "scares."  The Lovecraftian elements of the story have excised utterly, which is weird since Lovecraft's work is (I think) wholly in the public domain and could therefore be pilfered by any old hack who wished to do so.  This adaptation skips out on doing that, which is indicative of its many shortcomings.

We hates it, precious.


#88 -- Children of the Corn (2009)


  
  
I'm trying to imagine what kind of consumer would purchase this based purely on the fact that it's uncut and uncensored.  Would this hypothetical consumer have a conscious thought process approximating this: "Hmm, well, since it's Uncut and Uncensored, I'll buy it; if it were cut and/or censored, then fuck a bunch of that, but this is uncut AND uncensored, so I will have one."  This thought is followed by the conducting of an actual transaction with an actual cashier.  This consumer then walks out of the store, feeling as though the day had just taken precisely the right turn.
 
Somewhere, that person exists.  Or at the very least, marketing people circa 2009 thought that that person existed.  To some extent, I guess they still must, despite the rise of streaming and the decline of physical home-video media; after all, a significant marketing push was given an R-rated edit of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier this year, so tricks like that must still work.
  
Did they ever work for a piece-of-crap movie like 2009's Children of the Corn, though?
     
I bought the DVD, and later upgraded to the Blu-ray, so I suppose you'd have to say it worked on me.  However, I did what any person with an appropriate sense of shame should do: I made my purchases online, and was thereby spared the humiliation of having a person look me in the eye and judge me while I was in the process of spending my money on such a shitshake of a film.  I have not managed to motivate myself to watch the disc, so I cannot say exactly what "Uncut and Uncensored" might amount to; I watched the television broadcast, and -- you'll find this hard to believe, I'm sure -- disenjoyed it so much that forcing myself into a second viewing has not been easy to do.
  
The child actor playing Isaac delivers one of the worst performances I've ever seen, hands down.  I don't blame him for this, partially because he later went on to do acceptable work on Dexter; but also because a child actor is never to blame for giving a bad performance.  The director is always at fault there.  
  
For God's sake, he couldn't even direct the kid into giving a decent performance on the cover of the DVD!  Look at him!  Does he look evil, or does he look like someone just told him they were out of chocolate ice cream and that he would have to settle for vanilla?  A squash in a hat and vest could have delivered a more believable performance than this.
 
Not merely bad; inept.  And yet, at one point, I wrote a longer review of it.  This is, perhaps, proof of a life squandered.
  
  
#87 -- Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996)




Also known as Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War, this is a burnt-turd smoothie under any title.  As of the time I am typing this, it holds a 2.4 rating on IMDb.  Wowsa!  Even I wouldn't go THAT far.  I mean, it does at least seem to have been created by humans, and not by genius crows, so it's better than, say, Ultraviolet . . . but that's about as kind as I can be.
 
The movie stars Matt Frewer -- always a sign of impending low quality -- as Jobe, who has now taken over the world, except not really, or some bullshit.  I can't really remember, and can't be bothered to find out.
 
Awful.  It gets close to falling into the so-bad-it's-fascinating category: it's not without ambition, and the score is written by somebody who clearly felt he was John Williams and this was his Star Wars.  You've got to look down your nose at the self-delusion, but maybe you've also got to applaud the effort.


#86 -- Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1994)






Say, I know what a great idea for a sequel to Children of the Corn would be (said somebody in roughly 1994): let's have people grow corn in a city!  And then, like, bad things can happen!
 
This is -- shocker! -- a terrible movie.  However, supposedly Charlize Theron is in it somewhere; I cannot immediately verify that, but IMDb says so, and for now, that's good enough for me.  I like Charlize Theron.  She's purty.  And unless my memory fails me, she's the only good thing in the movie.
 
Please note that I say that despite not even being sure she is actually IN the movie.

  
  
#85 -- Sometimes They Come Back ...For More (1999)
  
  
   
  

When a movie co-stars Chase Masterson -- a lovely actress best known for her role as Leeta, the scantily-clad dabo girl on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine -- in the role of a character called "Major Callie O'Grady," you know you are in for a rocky ride.
 
So it is with this, the final part of the Sometimes They Come Back trilogy, which -- you guessed it -- has virtually nothing to do with the original story or film.  Instead, it is a ripoff of The Thing!  Give 'em credit for having balls; when you are making a cash-grab direct-to-video cheapie designed to exploit Stephen King fans and you then take the time and effort to rip off Howard Hawks and/or John Carpenter in the process, I have no choice but to salute your moxie.  Ya got spunk, kid!
 
You might be surprised to learn this, but director Daniel Berk has apparently not worked in the movie business since making this film.
 
GASP!
  
You know, part of me misses these direct-to-video fauxquels that the industry was pumping out back in the day.  It's not a part I'm proud of, but it exists nevertheless.

I've admitted that, so we can move on now.

  
  
#84 -- The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (2003)
  
  
   
  

I'm not a huge fan of Rose Red to begin with, so my expectations for this prequel were not over the moon.  However, I enjoyed the novel it was based upon, which supplied some depth that I felt was maybe lacking from Rose Red.  It was ghost-written by Ridley Pearson, almost certainly from ideas supplied by Stephen King; don't quote me on that, though, because it's sheer semi-educated-speculation on my part.
 
Sadly, despite following the novel closely and having the same director who helmed Rose Red, this movie is a near-complete botch.  The acting is mostly bad, the pacing and tone feel off in ways I can't quite put my finger on, and it simply doesn't capture the voice of the source material.
 
I've seen worse, but in this case, that's no compliment.

  
  
#83 -- Children of the Corn: Revelation (2001)
  
  
   
  

I don't actually remember what gets revealed in this movie, except for the fact that in 2001, Michael Ironside was not being very choosy in terms of what movies he would appear in.
  

#82 -- Cell (2016)




Just an abysmal disaster in almost every way.  I think the movie wants viewers to believe that John Cusack is still young-father age, whereas he is in fact -- as evidenced by how haggard he looks on the above poster -- young-grandfather age.  He is not settling into that role gracefully, and it shows big-time in this turkey.
  
 
#81 -- A Good Marriage (2014)
  
  
  
  
The dregs of this list are populated by a great many fauxquels, and that's appropriate, since the vast majority of those have been not merely awful but godawful.  They should be looked down upon; they are crass junk made (in many cases) by untalented quasi-amateurs.
  
There's an argument, though, that if one were to grade on a curve one would be forced to conclude that those quasi-professional failures are preferable to a film like A Good Marriage, which began its life with an advantage the fauxquels did not possess: high-quality source material.
  
After all, a plate of feces nachos like Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace is working from a screen story written by people -- Farhad Mann and Michael Miner -- who had never done much else of note.  (Mann had never written anything else that was produced; Miner had co-written RoboCop, a solid credit that is not joined on Miner's filmography by much else of note, leading one to suspect that perhaps it was Ed Neumeier who did the heavy lifting on RoboCop.)  A Good Marriage, on the other hand, was based on a terrific novella by Stephen King.  
  
There's no excuse for fucking that up.  Asking the people who made Beyond Cyberspace to turn in a good movie is like asking an elementary school classroom to cook you a good meal without the teacher's help.  If you get something you can swallow and not regurgitate, you've probably gotten lucky.  A movie like A Good Marriage is more like sitting down in reputable restaurant and ordering off the menu, only to receive a meal that is undercooked and bland.  Sure, the meal the grade-schoolers made you is probably worse in an objective sense; but doesn't it seem as if the restaurant ought to receive a more vitriolic complaint?
  
That's debatable, I suppose.  Either way, A Good Marriage is a bad movie.  It's got a screenplay by King himself, which has rarely helped a movie; but it's also got Oscar-nominated Tony-winner Joan Allen, which assuredly HAS helped many a movie.  She's awful in this one, though, and whether that is a lack of engagement on her part or incompetent direction by Peter Askin is a question I cannot answer.
  
Also worth scorn: Anthony LaPaglia, miscast and floundering as Bob Anderson.  On some other level of the Tower, this movie was directed by David Fincher and starred Michelle Pfeiffer (in a role that brought her career back to life) and Bryan Cranston.
  
We don't live on that level.  We live on one where the movie version of A Good Marriage fucking blows.


#80 -- Nightmares & Dreamscapes: "Autopsy Room Four" (2006)




I wonder if there are people who are seriously bummed out that you almost get to see Richard Thomas's cock but are robbed of the sight by camera placement.  I bet there are.

This entire episode is kind of like that.


#79 -- Riding the Bullet (2004)
  




First of all, I may as well admit that I'm not an admirer of the short story this movie was based upon.  I've been a Stephen King fan long enough that I was one of the many thousands of people who logged in to Amazon.com the day the story was released, and bought my first ever "e-book" (what a science-fictional term that seemed at the time).  And I thought it was decent.  I wouldn't say much more for it than that, and subsequent rereads have done nothing to change my opinion.
 
So the movie version was always starting out handicapped.  But there's really no reason why a movie version couldn't at least have managed to be mediocre.  It didn't have to be what this movie is, i.e. bad to a degree that I find it hard to imagine ANYONE liking it.  And yet, I know people do; dozens of them, perhaps.  I've got a good friend who holds it up as his favorite of all King movies.
 
I am at this point going to issue my standard pro-Mick Garris apology and say that I always feel like an asshole for railing on his movies, because every time I read or listen to or see an interview with him, he seems like the nicest guy!  And I mean that.  You don't see me making time to say nice things about the burger flippers who made the "sequels" to The Mangler, do you?  No, you don't.  So believe me when I say that I genuinely wish I didn't hate most of Mick Garris's movies.
 
But I do hate them, and I hate none of them worse than I hate this one. 

  
Part of the problem is that David Arquette -- I mean, David mother-scratchin' Arquette, man! -- is playing the malevolent ghost.  A jar of pickles would have been better-suited to that role; perhaps Vlasic's agent held out for too much money.
 
Another problem: Barbara Hershey plays Alan's mother, and man, let me tell you, she looks AWFUL in this movie.  She's a good actress, and she does decent work here; and that last statement is more than I can say for her plastic surgeon, who at some point in time prior to the filming of this movie ruined Hershey's face.  As a result, she not only looks too old for the role -- and let's have no mistake about it, she looks forty fucking years too old for the role (at least in the flashback scenes) -- but she looks like a skeleton to boot.  
    
Ladies, please: stop doing that to yourselves.
 
And Stephen King: stop allowing Mick Garris to do this to your stories.


#78 -- Nightmares & Dreamscapes: "The Fifth Quarter" (2006)




Coming from a decidedly slight short story (one which King originally published under the pseudonym "John Swithen"), this tale was an odd choice for inclusion in Nightmares & Dreamscapes (the miniseries, that is, not the book).

The episode is a moderately well-made adaptation, but the story just doesn't amount to a whole heck of a lot, so the best thing you can say about the episode is that it's mediocre.


#77 -- Nightmares & Dreamscapes: "The Road Virus Heads North"  (2006)





Here's the thing: if you're going to make a movie about a scary painting, the painting(s) you use to depict that had better be top-notch stuff.

These are not scary at all.  They are decent, in terms of the sheer aesthetics of the art; but, like so much of Nightmares & Dreamscapes, they are considerably more low-rent than the source material demanded.

I don't much care for Tom Berenger in the lead role, either.  He's not somebody I can empathize with, and that's a key element of this story.


#76 -- Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011)




This one barely has children OR corn in it.  Awesome.


#75 -- Mercy (2014)




I wouldn't go so far as to call this a good movie, but it's an interesting misfire.  The cast is fairly good, and there are a few decent moments, and the cast is solid.  The problem is that it seems almost as if the production ran out of money and wasn't able to actually film the ending they'd written.  I kid you not, it's that poorly-executed.


#74 -- Firestarter 2: Rekindled (2002)




Here's the thing: I've actually got a decent amount of interest in seeing a sequel to Firestarter.  I'd love to see what Charlie is up to these days.  Obviously, I'd prefer that such a tale be written by Stephen King, but in a pinch, I'd accept well-crafted fanfic.
 
This is legally-sanctioned fanfic, but sadly, it's not particularly well-crafted.  It's got Malcolm McDowell and Dennis Hopper in it, and they're both doing their overacting-for-hire routines, which is fine by me since it's all I expect from a low-rent gig like this anyways.  I actually rather like Marguerite Moreau as grown-up Charlie, so add her into the mix with those salty old pros cashing their checks, and it makes for occasional entertainment.
 
Overall, though, this is not a great deal better than you would expect from one of those websites that specializes in "publishing" the stories that tell you all about the special wand-training classes Professor Snape held for Harry, and then Ron, and then Harry AND Ron, and then Harry and Ron while Hermione observed.
 
In other words: this really isn't very good, and probably shouldn't exist.


#73 -- Monsters: "The Moving Finger" (1991)


Seeing that Chiller watermark reminds me that I still haven't bought Monsters on DVD.  I'll get around to it eventually.
  
  
What a weird twenty minutes of television this is.

The short story is a weird one to begin with (it's the story of a guy who discovers a really long finger emerging from his bathroom sink), and the oddball performance of Tom Noonan send this sucker into loonyville.
  
Which, admittedly, makes "The Moving Finger" interesting, if nothing else.
  
Not helping one iota (except to make things even weirder): a cheap, tacky musical score which seems to be trying to convince us that what we're seeing is a comedy.  And to be fair, maybe it is.



#72 -- Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return (1999)




God help me, but I kinda like this movie.  I mean, don't misunderstand me: it is a terrible movie.  I makes mo claims to the contrary.
 
.....
 
Okay, that last sentence should have read "I make no claims to the contrary," but the typo fairy visited me, and that amusing sentence was the result.  I don't have the heart to delete it; can't be done.
 
Thing is, my enjoyment of 666 is kinda similar: it's like how, if I had a brain-damaged cat who couldn't do anything but crap in the floor and fail at meowing, I'd realize it was a terrible pet, but I'd love it and pet it just the same.  It's a weakness in me, I suppose.  It must also have been a weakness in Stacy Keach and Nancy Allen, who co-star.  Wow.  Stacy, you were Mike Hammer!  Sheesh.
 
Someday, somebody will write the definitive history of the Children of the Corn series, asking the filmmakers questions like "Had you ever actually seen a horror film before filming began?" and "Did you at some point believe that making this film would serve as a springboard into better work?" and "How did that work out for you?"  I'm interested enough and masochistic enough to be the man for the job, but I lack resources and motivation.
 
Somebody else get that book written so I can read it, stat!
 
Anyways, as far as Children of the Corn movies go, this one is better than most.


#71 -- Sometimes They Come Back... Again (1996)




If I'd produced this film, I'd have made sure there was an exclamation mark on the end of the title.  I mean, which movie would YOU rather see:  
  
Sometimes They Come Back ... Again
or
Sometimes They Come Back ... Again!
  
I think we all know the choice is clear.
 
Let's make a pact to, now and forever, read that title in the voice of William Shatner: "Sometimes," he says, "they come back..." --- and here he pauses as only William Shatner can pause -- "...AGAIN."  And I'll grant you, when he reads it, he reads it without an exclamation mark.  So maybe the choice isn't so clear.
  
The movie actually does have some relation to King's original short story, and it adapts a few elements of it which were left out of the first movie.  Not much; but it gives it at least a modicum of King-liness, which is more than most fauxquels can claim.
 
Anyways, in case you were wondering: yes, of course this movie is shit.  However, it's got Michael Gross and Hilary Swank in it, so it gains a couple of points for that.  The Michael Gross points are immediately lost due to the presence of a pre-transition Alexis Arquette -- who, for those keeping score at home, co-starred in both this AND Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror -- but future two-time Oscar-winner Swank still adds some class to an otherwise classless endeavor.
  
  
#70 -- Dolan's Cadillac (2009)
  
  
  
This one has crept up the list marginally purely because (thanks to his role in Mr. Robot) I've finally developed an active enjoyment of Christian Slater.  I don't know that that will help me like this movie, but it certainly won't hurt it any.
  
  
#69 -- Under the Dome (2013-2015)




What a bummer.

If you poke around the Internet, you will find any number of reputable articles stating that we are currently living not merely in a Golden Age of television, but in an era in which there is literally too much quality television for any one person to successfully keep up with.  It's called "Peak TV," and it means that there are so many good television series on the air -- whatever "on the air" means in the era of streaming media -- that one literally cannot watch it all.

With that in mind, you'd think that a series based on a thousand-page Stephen King novel would be a slam-dunk, especially if the novel is as good as Under the Dome is.

Thing is, not everyone agrees with my assessment, and there has long been a sizeable contingent of fans -- including one of my best friends -- insisting that one particular aspect of the novel doesn't work.  Spoiler alert: I'm about to talk about that briefly, so if you don't want to know, check out now.

In the novel, you find out that the dome is the product of highly-advanced aliens that are so indifferent to mankind that we may as well be ants.  This, apparently, rankled some readers.  I'm not sure how or why, but it did, and so when the producers of the television adaptation got the project going, they were quick to specify in interviews that viewers would not have to worry about that ending; they'd be coming up with something else.

Which would maybe be fine if they had built a good show around that new idea.  Instead, they delivered a cheesy, toothless, pandering bunch of nonsense that -- spoiler alert for the tv show -- ultimately adopted an even daffier resolution.  That, yes, involved aliens.  But instead of the existential horror inherent in King's superior idea -- which nobody, including the producers or King himself, need ever have apologized for -- the producers chose to go with Syfy-level tripe.

The series ran for three incoherent seasons, but did have a few virtues in its a mostly-good cast and relatively strong production values.  I've got a strange nostalgia for it already, which I can only assume is some fandom version of Stockholm Syndrome.

On the whole, though, this was a massive missed opportunity.  What could have been a socially-relevant blend of horror and sci-fi was presented as Lowest Common Denominator escapism, and was not effective even on that level.


#68 -- Pet Sematary Two (1992)




I fucking hate Edward Furlong.  Hate him.  Not personally, of course; I know nothing about him in that capacity.  But on-screen, I hate him.  He may, in fact, be in the upper echelon of actors I hate to see in a movie, right up there with Christian Slater and Rob Schneider.  [2016 edit: thanks to Mr. Robot, I've developed an actual liking for Christian Slater, God help me.]
 
Furlong almost single-handedly wrecks the otherwise-awesome Terminator 2: Judgment Day; the only reason he doesn't is that in that movie, John Connor is kinda supposed to be an unlikeable little shit, so Furlong's inexplicably-smug little troll face works in favor of the movie in that regard.
 
Well, here he is again a bit later than T2, stinking up Pet Sematary Two, as well; and while this particular movie would have been a colon taco with anyone in the lead role, Furlong certainly doesn't help matters any.  
  
The story this time: someone else comes and lives in Ludlow near the pet cemetery, and then (ill-advisedly) buries first a dead pet and then a dead relative there.  There are moments in the movie that come close to being competent, but then things run very badly off the rails when Clancy Brown comes back from the dead.  His character is almost decent pre-zombiefication; post-zombiefication he becomes a cartoonish kind of horrible comedic relief.  It doesn't fit the tone of the first movie, and doesn't particularly fit the tone of what has come beforehand in the second one, either.  Don't blame Clancy for this, though: he's giving it his all, and it's not his fault that director Mary Lambert had really terrible ideas.
  
You've kind of got to wonder why Stephen King allowed this movie to happen.  I'm sure he must have had no legal ability to stop it, but it seems like he could at least have threatened to use his numerous interview opportunities to bad-mouth the movie and the studio.  Chrissakes, even in 2016 he's still trash-talking Stanley Kubrick.  But nary a word to prevent Pet Sematary Two from happening...?


#67 -- Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1997)




That kid doesn't look like he's about to cut someone down with that scythe; he looks like he's (unwillingly) marching in a flag parade and some asshole swapped his flag out for a scythe; but the kid didn't notice and just kept on marching.
 
That's a decent summary of precisely how scary this series is: it isn't.
 
However, this one comes very close to being the best movie in the entire series.  I'm aware that that's like saying Sunday was the best day during the week you had explosive diarrhea, but hey, one of 'em has to be the best!  This isn't it, but it's close, and it almost becomes competent moviemaking on occasion.
 
Helping this greatly is a star turn from the not-a-star-at-the-time Naomi Watts; she's gorgeous here, of course, but she's also obviously a good actor waiting for the right role to come along (which it did three years later when David Lynch cast her in Mulholland Drive.)
 
Apart from Watts, there's not much going on worth a loose stool, but a star is a star, and a star counts for something even when her efforts are in vain.


#66 -- Desperation (2006)




I like the novel, but it isn't one of my favorites.  So from my perspective, a movie version of Desperation was always going to have somewhat limited potential.  Now, add the following elements: screenwriter Stephen King (who, frankly, has had only very limited success in adapting his own works for the screen); director Mick Garris (who seemingly has zero ability to elevate a mediocre screenplay in translating it to film); a small budget; a too-short runtime that over-compresses a lengthy novel; and network-television standards-and-practices which remove a lot of the bite from a pretty bitey story.  Put 'em together, and whattaya got?  You've got a recipe for disaster, is what you've got; and that is exactly what this lame movie amounts to.
 
If nothing else, it has a pretty good cast.  They are squandered almost to a person, but I suppose that's better than squandering no-name actors.  Or is it worse?  I can't say for sure.


#65 -- Thinner (1996)




A genuinely awful movie.
 
This is a case of my head vetoing my heart a bit: my gut impulse is to put this very near the bottom of the list.  I can't do it, because my brain tells me that while it is indeed a bad movie, it is not inept in the way that, say, Trucks is.  And yet, I'd rather watch Trucks than Thinner, because yes, Trucks is godawful, but at least it isn't wrecking a good Stephen King novel.
 
Thinner wrecked a good Stephen King novel.  Not a great one, by any means, but definitely a good one.  The movie version is bad on every level, from the casting to the direction to the dialogue to the lighting to the effects to the makeup.  I suspect the catering was bad, too.


#64 -- Quicksilver Highway (1997)




Mick Garris is back again, this time doing his thing to both a Stephen King short story ("Chattery Teeth" from Nightmares & Dreamscapes) and a Clive Barker short story ("The Body Politic" from The Inhuman Condition).
 
This "movie" was actually a two-hour pilot for a proposed anthology television series for Fox.  The series never happened, so they just dumped the movie onto the schedule when nobody was looking.  Which is actually a better fate than most failed pilots receive; the public mostly never sees those.
 
This one stars Christopher Lloyd as Aaron Quicksilver, a weirdo collector of macabre curios; naturally, he has a story to tell to accompany each.  As far as horror-anthology concepts go, that one is pretty good, and Lloyd is obviously having a blast in the role.  However, his wardrobe/makeup/hairstyle is simply ludicrous, and I'd be willing to bet at least $2 that it played a huge factor in Fox's decision to not take the show to series.
 
Sadly, Lloyd's wraparound segments are handily the best scenes.  "Chattery Teeth" is one of King's lesser short stories to begin with, and while I'm not familiar with Barker's story in its original form, I can say unequivocally that it does notwork on film.
 
"Chattery Teeth" is the story of a driver who is saved from a violent hitchhiker by a pair of oversized malicious chattery novelty teeth.  Stephen King almost makes that laughable premise work in prose; Mick Garris certainly isn't capable of improving on King, so you do the math on that one and tell me how you figure it turned out.
 
As for "The Body Politic," it is the story of a plastic surgeon whose hands achieve independent sentience, revolt against the rest of the body, figure out a way to liberate themselves, and then instigate what appears to be a revolution among the rest of hand-kind.  This is a deeply silly idea, but I figure (and I apologize in advance for this pun) that in the hands of Clive Barker, it probably works pretty well as satirical prose.  In Mick Garris's hands ... it doesn't work all that well.  However, it IS the better of the two episodes, and a lot of that is due to a genuinely good performance by Matt Frewer in the lead role.  He does a tremendous job of performing with his hands; they actually seem to have minds of their own.  This is supported by an effective score courtesy of Mark Mothersbaugh, the former lead singer for Devo who has since gone on to have a distinguished career scoring movies and television shows and video games.
 
On the whole, though, Quicksilver Highway is a dud, and is for only the most devotedest of devoted King (or Barker) fans.


#63 --  Nightmares & Dreamscapes: "Umney's Last Case" (2006)




Nightmares & Dreamscapes (the miniseries) has not aged well for me in any way.  "Umney's Last Case" is one of the better episodes, but it is just as cheap-looking as most of the others, and feels just as perfunctory; but, thanks to the strong source material and good performances, it gets close to working.

It doesn't, though, despite William H. Macy starring in it.  He gives it his best, but it isn't enough.  The episode, like the miniseries overall, feels as if nobody really had any idea what to do with the material.  It's a problem not unlike the problem has plagued other King adaptations: nobody involved had any idea how to make an audience believe in what was happening.  King's ability to make a reader believe is one of his strongest talents; if you take that talent out of the equation, you've got very little left to go on.

This particular story involves a noir-esque private eye whose world is turned upside down when his author turns up and explains to him that he's only a piece of fiction.  Given certain occurrences in The Dark Tower, this is an interesting thing to consider within the broader scope of King's work.


#62 -- Bag of Bones (2011)




I did my best to give this movie a chance, and I liked parts of it (moreso during the first night than the second).  I've got no problem with Pierce Brosnan being cast as Mike, and in theory I've got no problem with the various other changes that were made to the characters.
 
However, the problem is that the screenwriter -- Matt Venne, whose prior work includes why-did-they-make-that sequels to White Noise and Mirrors -- is inept and seemingly does not understand that if you make a change to a character, you have to then track that change throughout the entirety of the story and correspondingly change any bits of the story that might suddenly (given the changes you have made) seem out of place or unlikely.  If you fail to do this, then you fail altogether, and Venne's screenplay fails altogether.  Given his previous credits, this is no surprise.  And yes, I am just a dick on a blog, so I'm in no position to judge.  And yet, I've come to the correct judgment; make of that what you will.
 
Making things even worse, director Mick Garris (returning here for what I dearly hope will be his final raping of Stephen King's work) has no ability to elevate a weak screenplay screenplay.  He comes close in certain scenes here, though, and from a visual standpoint he does some of his best work to date.
 
It isn't enough.  This is a bad movie, and the novel deserved MUCH better treatment.


#61 -- Salem's Lot (2004)




I'm a fan of the Tobe Hooper version of Salem's Lot (as you'll see by its placement on this list), but it made enough changes to the original novel that I had no problems with the idea of mounting a second, more faithful remake.
 
This, unfortunately, is not quite THAT remake.  It definitely sticks closer to the novel in some respects, such as the depiction of Barlow; and it reincorporates several characters (such as Dud Rogers and Jimmy Cody) eliminated from the Hooper version.  However, it also takes just as many liberties with the material as the first version took.  As in the 1979 version, some of those liberties work, but some do not.  For example: I do not give a crap about the new backstory for Ben Mears, nor do I approve of a massive change made to the end of the story.
 
Worse, much of the filmmaking is poor; the whole thing feels cheap and rushed.  The acting is mostly good, but overall this movie is a missed opportunity.


#60 -- Haven (2010-2015)





If I am correct in my assumptions, I invented the word "fauxquel," which designates a sequel or prequel that is essentially unrelated to the original material.  I don't have a word for an adaptation that fails to actually adapt its source material.  "Adapfaketion"?  Close enough, I guess.
  
Anyways, this is an adapfaketion of the King novel The Colorado Kid, and it's an adaptation in only the legal sense.  It mentions a "Colorado Kid," and has two crusty-old-man reporters.  That's about it.

Worse sin: it is set in Haven, Maine, and the producers seem to have not realized that King's literature already had a town in Maine named Haven.  This is not the same town; it is on the ocean, whereas the one in The Tommyknockers is entirely landlocked.

So ... yeah.  THAT'S the level of expertise we're dealing with from this show's producers and writers.

The story is that FBI agent Audrey Parker finds herself in Haven, investigating "Troubled" people (i.e., people who have weird mutant-style powers and afflictions).  She becomes involved to one degree or another with a local cop and a local criminal.  The three leads are all very good, and have terrific chemistry, so if nothing else, let's give the series credit for that.

We can also give it credit for improving as it got older: seasons one and two range from mediocrity to outright incompetence, but by season three and season four, the show had found something of a groove, and managed to create occasional moments of interest.  The final season (which was really two seasons split in two for contractual reasons) mostly follows suit, although I didn't care for the series finale at all.

So is this the worst thing you've ever seen?  No.  Is it worth actually sitting down and watching?  Unless you are a weird Stephen Kign completist like me, or like your television to be the cinematic equivalent of oatmeal, I'd say no.  There are too many great television shows out there to worry with the ones that set the bar low and even then barely manage to clear it.


#59 -- Nightmares & Dreamscapes: "The End of the Whole Mess" (2006)




King does pretty well with end-of-the-world scenarios, and while this one isn't as epic as The Stand, it works pretty well for an hour-long episode of television.

Seems like I ought to have more to say than that.

I don't.


#58 -- The Shining (1997)




On the subject of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, Stephen King and I do not see eye to eye.
 
Personally, I think it is a great movie; not a merely good one, but a great one.  It is not a great adaptation of the novel, but that's okay; it doesn't have to be.  Movies and books are different things, and there is no pressing need for a movie adaptation of a novel to avoid changing plot, character, setting, or even tone in order to produce a good film.

In his role as cultural commentator, Stephen King has always been a champion of that idea, typically by intimating that a movie is free to make as many changes as it wants to the source material, because through all the changes the book remains on the shelf; the "real" version remains unchanged.  This is a sensible position to take, and King has been mostly consistent with that viewpoint ... except in the case of Kubrick's The Shining.  To this day, he is still complaining about the changes Kubrick made to the story for the movie, and he is happy to elaborate any time the topic comes up.
 
I understand the viewpoint; if I wrote a novel, and some smarty-pants filmmaker changed things around in a movie version, it would probably tick me off, too.  What I do not understand is the inconsistency from King: why is it okay for, say, Hearts In Atlantis or The Mist but NOT okay for The Shining?  Don't try to actually answer that question; it can't be answered without twisting yourself into knots.
  
King's primary objections seem to center on Jack seeming crazy from the outset of the film and on Wendy seeming to be a weak-willed and spineless shadow of the character King wrote.  I don't agree with either assessment, necessarily.  But even if I did, do those changes automatically invalidate the movie?  I can't see how they would.
 
In any case, it is that attitude toward Kubrick's The Shining that eventually led King to cash in his power at ABC -- where he had had a massive hit with director Mick Garris on the miniseries version of The Stand in 1994 -- on a new, more faithful adaptation of one of his personal favorite novels.
 
You might think based on the tone I've been employing here that I thought in 1997 (and still think now) that the idea was doomed from the get-go.  A reasonable assumption, but not an accurate one.  My default position on remakes is that I have no problem with them.  Actually, I kinda love them, in theory: I think good stories are worth retelling, and provided that remakes are approached from a standpoint of artistic integrity, they're fine by me.  It's hard to imagine a remake that has more fundamental artistic integrity than one spearheaded by a novelist wishing to craft a film that is more faithful to his original ideas than was the previous film version.
 
So, no, I had no problem with the idea then, and I've got no problem with it now.
 
But did it have to suck?
 
Answer: with director Mick Garris at the helm, yes, it did.
 
This movie is not by any means a total loss.  The acting from Steven Weber and Rebecca DeMornay is generally quite good, and it's nice in general to see more of King's novel unfold in this medium.  On the other hand, Melvin Van Peebles is weak as Dick Hallorann, and the kid playing Danny is simply awful.  Every scene he is in drags the movie to a grinding halt, and while I can sympathize with the difficulty inherent in finding such a young child to adequately fill such a major role, I can't give it a pass.
 
Mead's performance is not by any means the movie's only problem.  Mick Garris is inept at filming horror.  I'll give you an example.  One of the elements of the novel that fans most regretted missing in the Kubrick film was the animal topiaries.  These hedge animals come to life and start menacing people ... but they only move when nobody is looking at them.  With that in mind, the miniseries made for an excellent opportunity to put these creepy beasties on film.  So what do King and Garris do?
  
They include a scene where you see the hedge animals moving.
 
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
   
Why would they do that?!?  I'll tell you why: because neither of them realized that the scene would be be vastly more scary if you never actually saw the things moving.  Want proof?  Look up a Doctor Who episode called "Blink," in which writer Stephen Moffatt spins a tale of angel statues -- "the weeping angels," they're called -- that move if you aren't looking at them to hold them in place.  They are legitimately frightening, and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that with good editing, the idea works like a charm. In showing the hedge animals moving, Garris and King betrayed the very concept of the hedge animals; this indicates that they were ill-equipped to carry out the stated goal of the miniseries: to get the adaptation right where Kubrick had gotten it wrong.
 
That scene is the worst offender, perhaps, but it isn't alone.  The miniseries is filled with scenes that don't work, including a cringe-inducing coda involving an older Danny ("Kissin', kissin'; that's what I been missin'..."), a why'd-they-do-that cameo of King playing a ghostly big-band leader apparently named Gage Creed (a shout-out to Pet Sematary that falls flat on its face), etc.
 
This version of The Shining is probably one of the areas where I find myself most at odds with the rest of the King community.  Alas, we can't all agree on everything, and it may be that in this case, I'm the one who isn't seeing straight.

Nah.  This is inferior filmmaking, plain and simple.


#57 -- The Lawnmower Man (1992)




Famously, Stephen King sued to have his name removed from this film because he felt it was so far removed from his source material as to be unrelated.  That's probably a fair assessment, although one scene does at least sorta reference the short story; also, King's shadowy governmental agency The Shop is mentioned a few times (and one agent is played by Dean "Big Jim Rennie" Norris!).
 
Granted, the mere presence of The Shop is not a whole heck of a lot to go on in terms of arguing for the Stephen King-iness of this movie.  And I'm not interested in making that argument; I'd simply like to mention that it has about as much to do with Stephen King as, say, Haven does.  So why hasn't Stephen King sued to have his name taken off of that series?
 
Beats me, and it really doesn't matter, so we ought to press on.
 
The Lawnmower Man isn't much of a movie, but I have a soft spot for it regardless.  For one thing, it was the first Stephen King movie I ever saw in a movie theatre.  I can still remember taking my brother to the theatre and "treating" him to a double feature consisting of this and Sean Connery's Medicine Man.  Not exactly a banner day at the old cinema, that.  But it was, retroactively, a double feature starring a James Bond on both ends of the bill: Connery the old pro, and Pierce Brosnan, still about three years away from debuting in the role.  I enjoy that memory.
 
I think Jeff Fahey is pretty good in the role of Jobe, the titular lawn jockey who starts the film as a simpleton and ends the film as a malefic neo-deity.  Fahey is a remarkably underused actor; here, he's a little dodgy in his simpleton scenes, but he brings real gravity and menace as the film progresses.  He's put to better use than he would be two decades later in Under the Dome, at least.
 
When it was released, The Lawnmower Man was primarily notable for its supposedly revolutionary visual effects.  They were ambitious, but I don't know that they were especially revolutionary; I don't recall being all that impressed by most of them.  They certainly were nowhere near the level of what James Cameron had been doing in The Abyss (1989) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).  A year later, Spielberg's Jurassic Park came out, and blew them all out of the water.
 
Looked at today, the effects of The Lawnmower Man are so dated that it's hard to believe anyone could EVER have considered them revolutionary in cinematic terms.  It is theoretically possible, though, that the movie had a more palpable impact on the effects of video games.  I'm far too ignorant of that medium to say one way or another, beyond simply raising the question ... but it seems possible.  And it's possible that as virtual reality continues to progress as a medium, people might begin to look back at this movie for its influence.
 
Either way, The Lawnmower Man is a weak and irrelevant movie.  It has a very modest historical appeal, and that's about it.  I do have that soft spot, though; don't let my hard words obscure that.


#56 -- Big Driver (2014)




If you want to get the long version of my thoughts on this movie, you can visit this link, and there they are.  But here's a shorter version:
  
What makes the novella "Big Driver" work for me is the conceit of a mystery writer applying her skill for plotting to a real-world situation. That's what the story is really all about, as I see it: an exploration of the boundaries between what mental processes make a person a writer of fiction and what mental processes make a person a lunatic.
  
There's also a rape scene and a revenge plot,and if I say that as though it is an afterthought, I do so not to minimize the subject matter but to indicate that I think King was less interested in the politics of abuse than he was in an exploration of creativity.  One could argue that that is crass and exploitative.  Personally, I don't take it that way, but if you're of the opinion that Stephen King is the wrong person to write about rape and that "Big Driver" is the wrong way in which to do it, I honestly can't say that I have a beef with your viewpoint.  I don't personally agree with it, but "Big Driver" is ultimately not quite good enough for me to want to defend it at all costs.
  
The fact that Lifetime -- which must have produced and aired something like 1786 movies over the years about women who get raped -- produced the movie version is so unsurprising that in retrospect it's hard to believe it didn't happen sooner.  The screenwriter, Richard Christian Matheson, makes an effort to bring some of the novella's thematic concerns to the fore in the movie.  They never quite get there.  I engaged with the movie in that way to some degree, but mostly because I was porting over my feelings about the novella.  If I ask myself the question "How would I feel about this if I'd never read the book?" and answer honestly, I am forced to admit that I would have found it to be a bit icky.
  
The subject of rape isn't taken lightly here, but I'd argue that it's only Maria Bello who's working overtime to make sure that the scene hurts (and is therefore morally honest).  The actor playing the rapist does what he can, but he's not even allowed to take his pants down.  Honestly, who rapes somebody without lowering their pants a bit?  Probably nobody, so right there you have something that smacks of Hollywoodization; and therefore, it's a fundamentally dishonest (and therefore amoral) depiction.
  
Granted, it's not possible to be as graphic in a movie -- even one for cable in 2014 -- as King is in the novella; nor would I want to see that.  But this is where art comes into play, and director Mikael Salomon simply doesn't have the chops to make the scene work.  The movie also dresses Bello in a short, sexy dress prior to the rape.  A consultation of the novella informs me that Tess wore dress slacks to the speaking engagement, and you've got to wonder why on Earth that particular change would be made in adapting the source material.  It only serves to reinforce a "she was asking for it" mindset, and surely we're beyond that by now.
  
The movie does have one thing going for it: Maria Bello, who is fantastic.  he's far and away the best thing about the movie, and she's so strong, in fact, that I'd have to say that I like Big Driver purely on the strength of her performance.  She might be at her best in the scenes with "Tom" (the voice she imagines for her TomTom GPS system, which serves as something of a conscience for her at times), and that is no small feat; but she's great in every scene, really.
  
Much of the supporting cast is quite good as well, but otherwise, it's a mediocre film at best.  Matheson's screenplay works against itself on a few occasions, sending mixed messages about Tess's competence, and even about the direction the movie is taking.  The whole thing ends on a decidedly lame note, too, so all in all I can't consider this movie a success.  I didn't hate tt, but I've felt no desire to watch it a second time.


#55 -- A Return to Salem's Lot (1987)




You've got to admire the testes hanging off the crotch of these producers for claiming that this was based on characters created by Stephen King (and also for using the image of Barlow from the Tobe Hooper film): nobody from King's novel, or from the movie/miniseries based on it, appears here.  None of the events of that film are referenced.  Hell, it doesn't appear to be the case that anyone associated with this movie ever even saw the original movie, much less read the novel it was based upon.  Let's have no misunderstandings: this was a cash grab intended purely to bilk a few nickels and dimes out of Stephen King fans too stupid to tell the difference.
 
In a way, I admire that.  It's at least got a ring of determination to it, which is more than can be said for some of the other movies you'll find me complaining about on this list.  Otherwise, this is an utterly abysmal film, although it does have Sam Fuller playing a grizzled old Nazi-hunter who ends up settling for hunting vampires when the circumstances move him in that direction.
 
If, like me, you have actually suffered through this film and wish to find a way to make yourself feel better about it, here is a game you can play: pretend that it's a gift that was given to you by a visitor from a parallel universe.  In that universe, Stephen King wrote a vastly different -- and vastly less good -- version of 'Salem's Lot, and this is the movie that was made from it.  So, in a way, this is like getting a look at what an alternate-universe version of Stephen King might be like.  The movie still eats camelshit, but at least now it feels like a miracle of science that you were able to see it at all.
 
Neato!

I know it will chagrin fellow blogger B. McMolo (of the excellent Dog Star Omnibus) that I'm not more enamored of this film.  He's a fan.  And who knows?  Maybe the next rewatch will convert me.  The mere fact that he likes it has caused it to jump up the list significantly (it was ranked a paltry #86 last time).
  
  
#54 -- The Langoliers (1995)
  
  
  
  
A co-worker once asked me if I had ever seen a movie called The Langoliers.
  
"Boy, have I!" I said delightedly; "that's a terrible movie!"  She scowled at me and disagreed and said it was one of her favorites from childhood.  I said if she wanted to borrow it to find out how wrong she was, she was welcome; she borrowed it, and STILL thought it was great.

No accounting for taste, y'all.  There's also no accounting for how quick a smarty-pants who thinks his taste is superior can everyone else's can insult somebody on account of some trivial thing like a movie.  Both of these statements are equally valid.
 
Nevertheless, this movie is a piece of shit.  For one thing, Bronson Pinchot (playing Craig Toomey) gives one of the world's all-time worst performances.  Why anyone would ever cast Pinchot in a serious role is beyond me.  The character was a hemorrhoid even in the novel; why compound the situation?
 
Even worse: the Langoliers themselves.  The two-night movie aired on ABC in 1995, and let's briefly consider the history of major CGI effects sequences: 1995 was six years after the water tentacle in The Abyss, four years after the liquid-metal terminator in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, two years after the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and one year after the amazing legless Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump.  CGI effects were still in their childhood, despite those landmarks having already occurred.  I think we'd be wise to at least try to cut a 1995 television production some slack as regards its CGI.
  
And yet I can distinctly recall watching this movie upon its initial broadcast and dropping my jaw when the time-devouring monsters showed up.  Not in a "wow, that's awesome!" way, either; in a "wow, that's awful!" way.  Even back then, those effects were shockingly substandard.  Today, they could almost certainly be improved upon by a kindergartener with an iPad.
 
The movie feels cheap and rushed in other ways, too.  The presence of David Morse and Dean Stockwell helps a bit; they do good work.  And the story does have a bit of Twilight Zone-esque charm, carried over from King's ridiculous-but-fun novel.  (YOU can call it a novella; I'm saying it's long enough to be considered a novel.)  Otherwise, though, this movie is laughably bad in almost every regard.
  
A lengthy review by yours truly can be found here.  You know; if you're into that sort of thing.
  
  
#53 -- Dreamcatcher (2003)
  
  
  
  
I hate this movie.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.  If I were being less objective, I'd fling it about twenty places further down on the list.  Truthfully, it's not THAT bad, though; pretty bad, but not THAT bad.
 
It's one of King's least effective novels, so the movie was hamstrung to begin with.  Defying the odds, screenwriter William Goldman took an uneven novel and made it even worse; an impressive feat, especially considering that Goldman once upon a time scripted Misery, The Princess Bride, The Stepford Wives, All the President's Men, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  
  
Director Lawrence Kasdan does a decent job with the visuals, and some of the acting (Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant) is good ... but some of the acting is bad (Morgan Freeman, believe it or not), some of the acting is horrible (Donny Wahlberg), and the tone in the latter half of the movie goes all wonky, to say the least.
 
The story sticks fairly close to King's novel, though heavily condensed; but there is a poorly-thought-out addition to one character's story that makes for perhaps one of THE worst climaxes in a big-budget movie that I've ever seen.
 
Fuck this movie; it's awful.
  
  
#52 -- Sometimes They Come Back (1991)
  
  
   
  
From the director of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and the screenwriters of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace comes a television movie that, in a surprise to nobody, is not particularly good.
 
It isn't horrible; King's story makes for a good backbone, and the presence of Tim Matheson (who does good work and probably deserved better circa 1991 than to be in this turkey) helps immensely.
 
Also deserving better circa 1991: Brooke Adams, whom you might remember as Sarah in David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone.  Once upon a time, she seemed to be on the verge of breaking through and becoming a movie star: in 1978, she starred in both the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and in Terence Malick's Days of Heaven.  Cut to 1991, and she's stuck in this, a low-profile made-for-television Stephen King cheapie.  What's worse: she's good it it, and is obviously not merely phoning it in.  She deserved a  much better career than she seems to have received.
 
So on the plus side, this movie has a good concept, Tim Matheson, and Brooke Adams.  Apart from a short appearance by William Sanderson, those are its only substantial virtues.
  
  
#51 -- The X-Files: "Chinga" (1998)
  
  
   
  

This is not only NOT "the most terrifying episode you'll ever see" of The X-Files, it's a fairly mediocre piece of work that doesn't have much to do with the screenplay Stephen King actually wrote.  (If you want to read an extensive summary of King's original screenplay, get a copy of Rocky Wood's book Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished.  No King fan should be without that book.)  The as-produced episode was extensively re-written by Chris Carter.  That's not unusual for television, so let's not hold that against Carter; let's instead hold the finished product against him.

It's (sigh) the story of, like, a possessed doll or something.  It takes place in Maine, so you know it's got something to do with Stephen King.

Kingphiles, I leave it up to you to determine whether this means the entirety of The X-Files (and, by extension, Millennium and The Lone Gunmen) is canonically a part of the Kingverse.
  
  
 #50 -- Children of the Corn (1984)
  
  
  
  
Finally, we have come to it: THE very best of all the Children of the Corn features, the first one.
 
This does not mean that it doesn't suck.  Duh; of course it sucks.  However, unlike the others, it sucks with some panache.  Plus, it's got a pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton, and it's got at least the bare bones of Stephen King's classic short story, along with which come a few creeps if no outright scares.
 
When you stop and think about it, it's amazing to consider the fact that this grim, incompetent little misfire of a movie has managed to spawn seven "sequels" and one remake.  It says something interesting about the way the movie business works, and it also potentially says something interesting about the way the name "Stephen King" works as a marketing tool.  The question has to be asked: why would anyone have shelled out even the smallest amount of money on any of those movies after the first one?
 
Having spent money on every single one of them, I suppose I am qualified to answer that question: in my case, I bought them all because I considered them to be part of my Stephen King collection, no matter how tangentially, and I knew it would bother me to not have them.  In other words, it was probably a mild form of obsessive-compulsive disorder on my part.
 
But I refuse to believe that there are more than a few thousand people in the entire world who would buy all of those movies for that reason.  So who are the other people buying and/or renting these things?  Are they people who compulsively feel the urge to see every horror movie series that comes out?  Are they fans of appearances by corn in films?
   
Alternatively, are there tons of people out there who somehow find themselves suckered into buying one of the movies, not knowing what it is and failing to pay close enough attention to avoid that fate?
 
Or -- horror of horrors -- could it be that there are enough people who ACTUALLY LIKE the movies to continue to make them (marginally) profitable?
 
More provocatively, might it be the case that the films are made as intentional money-losers for obscure tax reasons?  Such things do happen, so it isn't out of the realm of possibility.
 
There is probably truth in most of those hypotheses, and until somebody writes the definitive study of this implausible series, we won't know.  Happily, most of us won't spend much time worrying about it.
  
2016 update: I'm both amused and horrified, reading over these thoughts now, to notice how thoroughly they reflect a viewpoint from before the days of streaming content.  Circa 2016, it would actually be somewhat easy to understand how a person would end up familiar with the entire Children of the Corn series: you'd simply hypothesize that the movies had all been available on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu.
  
That was less so when I wrote these thoughts originally, and it was completely NOT so when all but arguably the most recent movie in the "series" (Genesis) was released.  In a way, that makes the existence of these films -- as well as the relative collapse of the home video market -- seem all that much more notable.  In a way, they now serve as living proof of how vibrant that market was at one point in time: it led to the ability to even a series as shitty as Children of the Corn to be profitable enough to keep going.
  
  
#49 -- The Mangler (1995)
  
  
  
  
Terrible though it may be, I like this movie, for one reason: Ted Levine.  Four years after his iconic performance in The Silence of the Lambs, here he is, having a grand old time playing the lead -- and a protagonist! -- in a silly movie about a possessed piece of industrial equipment.  And yet, the opportunities to see Levine play a lead have been all too few in his career; they ought to be treasured no mater how slap-dash the film in question.  This one is exceptionally slap-dash, but Levine is good, and that's enough to endear it to me.
 
You can also see Robert Englund chewing up the scenery like it was a Kit Kat, which is fun.
 
Otherwise?  This is dreck.  It's hard to believe the same man directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 'Salem's Lot, and Poltergeist.  In the case of that latter one it's easy to understand why someone would look at it and then look at something like The Mangler and decide to simply believe Poltergeist was directed by Spielberg.  Hooper had fallen far and hard by the time of The Mangler, no doubt about it.
  
  
#48 -- Graveyard Shift (1990)
  
  
  
  
To the extent it is possible, I try to separate the idea of "good movies / bad movies" from the idea of "movies that I like / movies that I dislike."  When I say that, I mean this: if I put my critical hat on, I am forced to admit that about half of the James Bond movies are bad, artistically-speaking.  That does not change the fact that I love almost all of them, for one reason or another.  (Not you, Never Say Never Again and Diamonds Are Forever.)  Sometimes, I love something for no reason other than that I love it.  I do not see any contradiction in that at all.  The trade-off is that I'm never going to try to convince you that something is good when I don't think it is actually good in some objective sense.  I love Octopussy to death, but you'll not catch me claiming that it's some sort of hidden masterpiece.  It isn't; it's a silly bit of fluff.
 
With that in mind, here's what I have to say about Graveyard Shift: I kinda love it.  It's a terrible movie, but for whatever reason, I have an affection for it.  So sue me.  [If you'd like to read a lengthier piece I wrote about the movie, here it is.]
 
Some of the acting is ludicrously bad, but I like Stephen Macht as the villain, and I thoroughly like Brad Dourif in his small role.  He plays an exterminator who takes his job so seriously that you get the feeling he would be better off in a lineup of other dudes who are applying for a job with Darth Vader to locate and detain the Millennium Falcon.  Dude: chill; they're just rats.
  
  
 #47 -- The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)
  
  
   
  
Of the many fauxquels to Stephen King films, this is the one that comes the closest to being decent in its own right.  It doesn't quite get there, but it gets a damn sight closer than the rest, and it also makes for a better movie than some of the other atrocities on this list.
 
Personally, I rather like the movie.  The main character here is Rachel, who has the same abilities that Carrie White once had; this understandably alarms her guidance counselor, Sue Snell (whose presence is a lame attempt to make this an actual sequel as opposed to a mere ripoff).  In many ways, Rachel is nothing like Carrie; she's an outsider, but not a loser, and I think Emily Bergl is quite good in the role.  I wish that the filmmakers had given the character a better fate; Rachel dies in the end, because that's what happens in a Carrie movie, but it really feels like she ought to have lived.  She isn't a tragic character, so a tragic end simply doesn't suit her, and the movie feels very much off-balance as a result.
 
I also like the chemistry Bergl has with Jason London, who plays the character who corresponds to Tommy from the original.  They have a romantic relationship, and it actually works relatively well, as does the story of the football players who screw as many girls as they can, assign each other points for the conquests, and turn the whole thing into a game.  There's nothing there that isn't workable, storywise, but the elements from the original film are very obviously shoehorned in, and the third act feels completely forced.
 
My point being: the setup here is pretty good, and some of the execution is good.  For those reasons, I like this movie; but overall, it doesn't work, and is nothing more than a footnote.
 
But as fauxquels go, it's a winner.  Compare it to The Mangler 2 if you don't believe me.
 
(Sidebar: I like the word "fauxquel."  I also like the acroynm SKINO, which, as I mentioned half a list ago, stands for Stephen King In Name Only.  It's pronounced "skee-no," and the other one is pronounced "foe-quel" from the French word for "false."  Use both "fauxquel" and "SKINO" as you see fit, brethren and sistren, the better to help them go viral; but remember that you heard 'em here first.)
  
  
#46 -- Tales from the Darkside: "Sorry, Right Number" (1987)
  
  
   
  
You know what would be a GREAT idea for a book?  Somebody should print up a fake phonebook, using all of those "555" telephone numbers from movies and television shows.

I don't envy you the task of researching that, whoever you are; but I do expect a royalty check to arrive at my door on a semi-regular basis, because that is a genius idea.

Anyways, this episode -- an original which King wrote with Tales from the Darkside in mind -- is pretty solid, and has a good screenplay that mostly makes up for the not-great performances, the not-great direction, the not-great music, and the not-great sets.
  
It's worth mentioning, by the way, that Richard Matheson wrote a story with the same title in 1953.  It's got a mildly similar concept, and was adapted for The Twilight Zone as the episode "Night Call."  That episode was delayed from its originally-intended broadcast date of November 22, 1963.
  
Let's assume that King was aware of the Matheson story and wrote this teleplay as an homage. He doesn't mention it in his notes on the screenplay for its Nightmares & Dreamscapes appearance, but King is on the record as a huge Matheson fan, so he may have been assuming familiarity on the part of his fans.  We'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
  
  
#45 -- Sleepwalkers (1992)
  
  
   
  
Damn does this movie suck.  I mean, it's just friggin' awful.  Part of me feels like I ought to drop it down eight or nine or ten places, but I won't, for two reasons: (1) there is a cat named Clovis in it and (2) at one point, Clovis's owner sings a song that has lyrics that go "Here comes Johnny with his pecker in his hand / He's a one-balled man / And he's off to the rodeo."*  That jumps you up three spots on any list, automatically.
 
(* Google informs me that this song is a pre-existing ditty called "The Rodeo Song."  I was more charmed by it when I thought it was some bullshit the actor made up while pretending to drive, but it's still pretty funny.)
 
I also placed it this high for no better reason than that it is an original screenplay by King.
   
Is that a bad reason?  Probably.  But it's also got Alice Krige giving a good performance, Madchen Amick being hot, a few fun cameos, a decent score by Nicholas Pike, and some solid gore.
  
  
#44 -- Golden Years (1991)
  
  


As you may know, Golden Years was originally a seven-episode series that aired on CBS in the summer of 1991.  The final episode culminated in a massive cliffhanger that was never resolved due to the show's cancellation; in the interests of having a complete -- and, therefore, marketable -- story, somebody decided to make an alternative ending that could be slapped onto a home video release.  A condensed four-hour version, complete with this new ending, was released on VHS.

This is what home video releases of Golden Years consist of to this day; the complete series has never been released commercially, although it does apparently pop up on Netflix streaming on occasion.  Even those use the ending created for the feature edit, however.  So I have been told; I can't verify it.
  
If you are a King fan, and want to watch Golden Years, I highly suggest that you find the original episodes, by hook or by crook.  Don't settle for the edited version, which has only the lure of a definitive ending to recommend it; the ending is a weak one (and was quite probably not written by King at all, but by one of the other producers).  I'd say you're better off with the cliffhanger, which is at least intriguing, and feels genuinely like a concept Stephen King would have come up with.

A lengthy post about Golden Years can be found here, if you're interested.  It will -- in excruciating detail -- tell you all about the differences between the episodic and the feature versions of the series.


#43 -- Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990)




Spun off from the '80s horror-anthology television show, this is a grab-bag of a movie that doesn't have much in the way of cohesion.  It's by no means one of the worst movies I've ever seen or anything like that, but as horror anthologies go, it's a few steps below Creepshow 2, which is a few steps below Cat's Eye, which is quite a few steps below Creepshow.
  
The story goes that this movie was at one point intended to be the third Creepshow movie; but whether this is true or false, only one segment is based on a Stephen King story: "The Cat from Hell," which was scripted by George Romero from a story King had published in 1977.  Adapted to film, it doesn't work all that well; it's still an intriguing concept, but the execution isn't up to snuff.  It does, however, co-star William Hickey, which is always good for a chuckle.
 
The other stories are "Lot 249" (based on an Arthur Conan Doyle story and starring Christian Slater) and "Lover's Vow" (easily the best of the bunch, an original by Michael McDowell of Beetlejuice fame).  There's also an amusing wraparound story starring Debby Harry of Blondie.  Run a YouTube search for Blondie, kids; you might even not regret it.
  
  
#42 -- The Dead Zone (2002-2007)
  
  
   
  
This one was difficult for me to rank, and is the best argument for me having ranked the seasons separately (as I've done in the past) rather than tie it all together.
  
All things considered, I've probably ended up placing it about where it needs to be, though.  I say that having essentially not seen the final two seasons (which makes it one of my few King dead zones, you might say), so who knows, maybe they'd bump it in one direction or the other.
  
The first season is really quite good, and very capably takes the concept from the closed-ended resolution of the novel and movie to an ongoing story well-suited for television.  During that first season, the producers and writers found (mostly-)good concepts that they could put Johnny into, resulting in interesting explorations of his abilities.
  
By the second season, some of the shine was off, due in no small part to the death of producer Michael Piller.  That second season is okay, but you can tell that in some ways, it's a different production.
  
The downward trend continued from there, and eventually you got to a Christmas special in which Johnny is using his abilities to try and find a hard-to-locate Christmas gift for somebody.  I stopped watching soon after that, hence the unseen episodes.  I've got them all on DVD, though, so one of these days I will give it all a look.
  
Not today.
  
  
#41 -- Kingdom Hospital (2004)
  
  
  
  
Kingdom Hospital is a one-season television series, adapted by King (and others, but mostly King) from a Danish miniseries directed by Lars Von Trier.  Like Golden Years, it was intended to last for more than one season, but got canceled due to lousy Nielsen ratings.

Unlike Golden Years, however, the story comes to a reasonably satisfying conclusion.  Not every plot thread is resolved -- you can sort of see where the second season might have been headed -- but the main plotlines are definitely resolved.

Unfortunately, the series is a mess.  It works well at times, but at others is laughably bad.  I don't need semi-imaginary production numbers.  I just don't.  Even Mad Men barely got away with that, and Kingdom Hospital is so far beneath Mad Men in quality that we may as well be talking about two different mediums.
  
  
#40 -- Nightmares & Dreamscapes: "Battleground" (2006)
  
  
   
  
I don't really like this episode all that much.

There: I said it.  I feel a lot better now.

A lot of King fans hold it in very high regard indeed, and I don't begrudge them that enjoyment.  If anything, I envy it; but I don't share it.  I don't dislike the episode, and it's handily the best hour of Nightmares & Dreamscapes; apart from that, though, I don't think it's all that special.  It feels to me like exactly what it is: a stunt, a filmmaking exercise designed to put "ooh"s and "ahh"s on the lips of people engaging in low-level film theory.  
  
In case you are unfamiliar with the episode, what I mean is that it is (almost) entirely free of dialogue.  The main character never speaks a word.

Here's my thing: so what?  Does it make sense for Renshaw to remain silent the entire time?  No.  It really doesn't.  It seems to me like he ought to be screaming and cursing at his tiny assailants, threatening them, bargaining with them, maybe even pleading with them.  Not nonstop, but at least a bit here and there.  I'd have been chatting my damn head off, so for him to remain silent makes me feel less empathy for him, not more; it puts me at a distance from the episode, and I don't think than can possibly have been anyone's intent.

This is the equivalent of a director watching one of Hitchcock's experimental movies and assuming that the movie works because of whatever bit of trickery Hitch employed, and not because Hitch experimented in a way that enhanced the already-present virtues of the story.

"Battleground" is, in other words, a prime example of putting the cart before the horse.

But to be clear, it's not bad.  It's entertaining, and William Hurt is good.  So are the effects.  It's a good hour of television.

Not, for me, a great one.  Your mileage may vary.
  
  
#39 -- It (1990)
  
  
  
  
I know this movie has legions of fans, and to any of you who happen to be reading this, I apologize for my opinions and envy you yours.  But I gots ta be me, so if this is a movie you hold near and dear, you might want to go ahead and just skip ahead a bit.
 
This movie sucks.  It is a poorly-directed, overly condensed, spottily-acted, cheap-looking trifle.  It has occasional moments of power, but they are entirely due to the excellent source material (my personal favorite of all of King's novels).
 
There is one element here that still works: Tim Curry's performance as Pennywise.  As is typical of Curry, he is terrific, maybe even iconic.  Scratch that; he's definitely iconic.  However, in this case, that's like doing iconic work as Santa Claus at a Walmart in Starkville, Mississippi: he was great, but oy, what a shithole he was in!
  
Some, though not all, of the rest of the cast is decent.  Anette O'Toole is the best of them as Beverly; the others run the gamut from good (Richard Thomas) to decent (John Ritter) to bad (all of the child actors not named "Seth Green") to wretched (Harry Anderson, playing as unfunny a comedian as I have ever seen).
 
Let's talk about the child actors.  Except for Seth Green, who has some decent comic chops as young Richie Tozier, they are not very good.  This was not their fault.  Blame director Tommy Lee Wallace and screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, who ought to have figured out a way to allow the kids in this movie to seem more natural on screen.  Instead, most of them seem like they are merely reciting lines and trying to get it done in two takes maximum.  You can practically see Jonathan Brandis counting out every "juh" sound so that when he stutters the name "Georgie" he uses exactly the right number of "g"s (i.e., however many the screenplay specified).  That's no way to have kids turn in convincing performances.  So, as a result, these kids turned in unconvincing performances, and what ought to be the heart of the movie feels like amateur filmmaking.
 
Now, let's go back to Harry Anderson for a minute.  He's playing the older Richie Tozier.  And he fucking sucks.  To be fair, Tozier is not one of King's better characters.  We're meant to believe that he was a kid with aspirations toward hilariousness, who then grew up to be a professionally funny adult.  King does okay with '50s Tozier; '80s Tozier is another story, and is painful to read at times.  King is rarely at his best when he's trying to be funny, and with Tozier he tries to be funny a lot.  In the movie, this might have been saved by the acting.  Want proof?  Witness Seth Green, who actually IS kinda funny.  Anderson, on the other hand, is wretched, and if you for one moment believe that this character is plausible as a successful professional comic, you obviously have a completely different sense of humor from the one I've got.
 
I could go on.  The bad special effects deserve to be raked over the coals, and so does the whittling-down of the novel from an oak into a pencil, but that ought to do for now.
  
And yet, I've decided to place the movie this high on the list simply because I know that so many people do hold a special place in their heart for it.  That counts for something.
  
  
#38 -- Tales from the Darkside: "The Word Processor of the Gods" (1984)
  
  
   
  
Ah, early-eighties computers ... how charming.

I like the King story a lot, and while this episode feels low-budget even by the standards of the day, I think the concepts and (most of) the acting gets it over the hump.  I feel like there's a good chance that it plays better if you are more familiar with Tales from the Darkside than I am.
  
Gotta get that complete-series box-set one of these days!
  
  
#37 -- The Tommyknockers (1993)
  
  
  
  
There are things I like about this movie/miniseries.  For example, I think Jimmy Smits is very good as Jim Gardner; he doesn't match the Jim from the novel, but I don't mind that.  Marg Helgenberger is also pretty good as Bobbi; and, more importantly, Smits and Helgenberger have good chemistry.
 
Not that the movie takes any advantage of it.  It decidedly does not.
 
Even more disappointingly, the epic majesty/horror of the alien spacecraft, so palpable in the novel, is almost entirely missing from the movie.  In some ways, that's understandable: television productions circa 1993 were simply not capable of providing the effects that would have been needed to replicate that massive excavation that features so prominently in the book.  I understand that, and I don't hold it against the movie.  However, the producers didn't even really try to hint at any of it.  Worse: they failed to come up with an acceptable way of replacing what was, out of necessity, omitted from the story.  And some of the special effects are about as un-special as it's possible to get.
 
Nope, sorry: this one was a missed opportunity.  (I reviewed this movie in a lengthier fashion previously.  Here's the proof.)
  
  
#36 -- 11.22.63 (2016)
  
  
   
  
There are several titles on this list that I dislike on a personal level more than I dislike from a purely critical standpoint.  I don't have a purely critical standpoint; I'm not a critic.  I fake it on occasion, though, and if I had that hat on I'd be forced to admit that Hulu's 11.22.63 miniseries is a well-made, occasionally compelling story that approaches a familiar subgenre from an interesting direction.
  
I'd have harsh thing to say about the writing, however, because even from a standpoint of critical objectivity I think you'd have to conclude that the plot and story are riddled with holes, inconsistencies, and nonsense.  Some of that comes from King's novel, but a shocking amount of it comes via alterations and additions that the producers made to that novel.
  
And that's where my personal distaste for the miniseries comes into play.  There was no excuse for what happened here; none that I'll accept, at least.
  
Here's the deal.  At some point around the beginning of the decade, it became to be a widely-accepted fact that television was experiencing a new Golden Age of quality.  A few years later, we entered the realm of what some journalist somewhere dubbed "Peak TV," i.e., the notion that not only is it a Golden Age we're living in, but an age during which there is more good television than one person can watch.  Literally-speaking, one cannot keep up with it all.
  
This problem -- and has there even been a more First-World Problem than that one? -- has been intensified by the rise of original programs on the streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.  Netflix has had a number of big hits, ranging from House of Cards to Orange Is the New Black to Stranger Things.  Amazon is playing catch-up so far, but they've got shows like The Man in the High Castle and Bosch to their credit, and recently launched a promising newcomer in David E. Kelly's Goliath (which stars Billy Bob Thornton, William Hurt, and Maria Bello among others).  They haven't hit the sweet spot to replicate Netflix's wide-scale success yet, but it feels as if they are on the verge.  By the way, it's worth pointing out that their original-programming efforts began in part with co-producing Under the Dome with CBS.
  
Hulu, meanwhile, has been left in a distinctly third-wheel position.  11.22.63 was one of the first major salvos in their bid to change that perception.
  
That being the case, doesn't it feel as if they should have tried harder?  The miniseries has some starpower in the form of James Franco and producer J.J. Abrams, and the production design is strong.  However, despite the fact that the miniseries was produced for a streaming platform on which virtually no runtime restrictions existed, the decision was made to abbreviate the novel.  The process of doing so dumbed down the story and themes King was working with, and sapped everything special out, leaving a blatant grab for the Lowest Common Denominator in the spot where something majestic could and should have been.
  
In some part, this decision seems to have been made due to fears that if James Franco's hero character didn't get to the past and begin his mission as soon as possible, nobody would show up in the second week to see what came next.  Nobody seems to have considered the fact that that approach worked just fine for the novel, which was a bestseller and garnered praise not merely from King's normal fans but also from new readers who were intrigued by the concept and the resultant attention the novel received.
  
In other words, it was a case of a company buying the rights to a novel and then failing to understand what made that novel special.  Consequently, they failed to be able to take advantage of the property they had purchased.
  
Part of the problem is the very decision to have aired -- "aired" -- the episodes weekly, rather than put the whole thing up at once.  Say what you want about Netflix, but at this point it is beyond argument that their customers have responded well to their all-episodes-at-once approach.  You want to watch Luke Cage one episode per week?  You can do that.  You want to watch all thirteen episodes of the first season in a single day?  You can do that, too.  The immediacy of that approach helped turn Stranger Things into the most talked-about filmed property in any medium for the summer of 2016, and that's just a fact.
  
Amazon has wisely copied the Netflix approach.  Hulu seems determined to stick to a once-weekly format.  And that's fine with me, since that's how I personally prefer to watch television.  However, in the case of 11.22.63, it resulted in a compromised approach that caused the writers and producers to be too zealous in accelerating the plot.  If they'd given the project an additional two or three episodes and then put it all up at once, I don't think they'd have needed to worry about such things as whether Jake was spending too much time before getting to Dallas.  Trust in your story; trust in its characters; and then, use the medium to maximize the effectiveness of those elements.
  
Perhaps it was a budget issue.  If so, then Hulu had no business getting into this game so aggressively.  It probably worked, so they'd likely tell me that I'm full of shit, and they'd probably be right.  But I don't care about Hulu; I care about Stephen King and his novels.
  
The entirety of that sentence remained true once 11.22.63 was concluded.
  
  
#35 -- The Twilight Zone: "Gramma" (1986)
  
  
  
  
I've been watching The Twilight Zone at the rate of an episode per week for the last few months, and I've been enjoying that process.  I have yet to decide whether I will, once I'm done, continue on to the mid-eighties relaunch series of which "Gramma" is a part.
  
Based on what I've seen -- which is precisely one episode (this one) -- I'd say that while there seems to be a quality gap between the two incarnations, it might nevertheless be worth my time.  By no means is this top-flight television, but it's okay. The screenplay by Harlan Ellison does a solid, economical job of making sure the half hour feels neither rushed nor slow.  The effects and the makeup are a bit on the weak side, and that hurts, but the short version is creepy in a way that the later long version (Mercy) mostly isn't.  
  
Not the highest of praise, but it's pretty good compared to some of your other options on this list.
  
Sidebar: I wish the title of the new series had been something other than The Twilight Zone.  It's colloquially referred to sometimes as The New Twilight Zone, but that's not the actual title, and so I can't quite make myself call it that.  Things like this create dilemmas for bloggers like me, who have to then wrestle with the question of how to label the series so as to make it plain that it's the eighties version and not the Rod Serling version to which I'm referring.
  
  
#34 -- 1408 (2007)
  
  
   
  
Things to like about this movie: (1) John Cusack, who is in virtually every scene and who gives a good performance from start to finish; and (2) Samuel L. Jackson, who brings his considerable verbal dexterity to bear on a small (but crucial) role and improves the film considerably.
 
Things to dislike about this movie: everything else.
 
I know it has fans.  I'm not one of them.  Rarely have I seen a scary movie that is less scary than this one.  Not only is it not scary, it isn't creepy, or disturbing, or eerie.  In fact, it evokes almost no emotions of any kind from me, unless annoyance and boredom are emotions, and it evokes plenty of those ones.  Overlit and overscored, with special effects that are seemingly intended to chill but instead fall flat, this is a shout that ought to have been a whisper.  I could forgive some of that if I didn't feel as if the movie considered itself to be terrifying.  It's the cinematic equivalent of a comb-over in a nightclub.
 
The expansions of the plot from the original short story are not bad.  A good movie could theoretically have been the result.  However, 1408 is, for my money, a near-complete misfire, and I'm mystified as to why so many King fans seem to like it.  Maybe someone can explain it to me some day.  Probably not, though.

And yet, because it has SO many admirers, I have elected to place it higher on the list than I would otherwise be inclined to do.

Am I not merciful, Klytus?


#33 -- Apt Pupil (1998)




This movie seems to fall a bit in my estimation with each passing year.
 
Here's who's NOT to blame for that: Ian McKellan, who was having a hell of a year between this and Gods and Monsters (and who was only a few steps away from the superstardom that came with X-Men and The Lord of the Rings).  He completely inhabits his role as an aging -- but by no means toothless -- Nazi, so much so that there are scenes in which you almost feel sorry for the old cretin.
 
And guess what? That's a good thing.  It's important to remember that the Nazis were humans.  They were not monsters, but men.  And what that means is that in terms of their potential, they are not merely a thing of the past; they could appear again.  (I'm revising this sentence in 2016 a mere nine days prior to the next Presidential election; we'll see how that turns out.)  Do not take that to mean that you should feel sorry for Nazis; you shouldn't.  But you should be willing to at least consider it, if only so that your refusal to do so carries some added weight.
   
In his novel -- and please don't bother writing me to point out that Apt Pupil is a novella (it isn't; it's length puts it solidly in the "novel" category) -- Stephen King seems to be making the point that one of the major factors contributing to the rise of Nazism was the potential for human insanity.  And 1930s Germany certainly did not have a monopoly on insanity.  No, indeed, that type of insanity might be lurking right around the corner, in the dark heart of the boy next door.
 
Apt Pupil is, for my money, not only one of King's best works, but also one of his most disturbing.  If I have a complaint about the movie, it's that it never manages to reach into the bottomless pits of filth that the novel does.  It tries; and in a few scenes, mostly involving McKellan, it gets close.
 
Ultimately, though, I think the film took a couple of wrong turns in the casting: in essential roles, both Brad Renfro and David Schwimmer strike too many false notes, and the movie suffers as a result.  Renfro is simply a blank as a performer; he always was.  It makes me bad to speak ill of the dead, but it's not going to stop me from giving my honest opinion: Renfro had virtually no on-screen charisma.  And if Todd Bowden needs to be one thing, it's charismatic.  In this movie, he isn't; and consequently, he's also not scary.  He does a few scary things, but doing scary things and being scary are not at all the same thing; it's like the difference between a lion and a man in a lion suit.  The counter-argument might be that Renfro's ordinariness made him perfect for the role; there might some truth to that, but not enough to persuade me.
 
As for Schwimmer, he just doesn't work here.  Maybe viewers who have never seen him on Friends will have a dfferent reaction, but for me, he's basically just playing a semi(?)-gay version of Ross, complete with a porn-stache.  He plays the role competently, but it's difficult to take him seriously.
 
Otherwise, though, the movie is okay.  I don't dislike it; it's directed well, has a good musical score, is nicely paced.  There are some changes made to the story, especially in terms of the ending, but those changes mostly work.  But I'm unable to invest in it, and the older it gets, the more problematic it seems to me.
  
  
#32 -- Carrie (2002)
  
  
   
  
Released only a few years after the much-maligned (and yet still reasonably successful) "sequel" to the original film, this made-for-television version landed on NBC one Monday night in early November with very little promotion or attention, and it has been laboring in obscurity ever since.

The pros: it sticks somewhat closer to King's novel than does the DePalma film, and it mostly avoids that movie's campy excesses.  However, there ARE still substantial differences between this movie and the novel, at least one of which is extremely controversial (and is very difficult to talk about in a non-spoiler manner).  I'll limit myself to saying that I rather like this particular element of the movie; I would certainly not want that particular change to be made in every version of the story, but in this case, for this specific movie, I like it.

The cons: the movie looks cheap as hell, and some of the acting is weak.  The guy who plays Tommy may as well be a waiter at Applebee's, for example.  The cinematography is poor, and the aesthetic choices made along those lines seem to have been designed to give the performances a greater immediacy (by filming hand-held and therefore keeping the performers in the moment).  Whatever gains come from this are offset by the losses, in my opinion.

The movie was written by Bryan Fuller, who later created four excellent cult-favorite television shows (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, and Hannibal).  Fuller is a good writer, and he does a credible job of updating the Carrie story.  He gives it a framework that is somewhat reminiscent of the framework King uses in the novel, and he also does a good job of making Margaret White a believable monster.

He didn't do that by himself, of course; Patricia Clarkson -- whom you might also remember from a role in The Green Mile -- does good work in the role, bringing a quiet menace that is entirely absent from Piper Laurie's Oscar-nominated version.  The movie fails to capitalize on this in any meaningful way, however, and Clarkson is nowhere near as memorable a Margaret as Piper Laurie is.

Angela Bettis plays Carrie, and she's okay, but she's no Sissy Spacek.  Bettis is an odd-looking woman, and she also behaves somewhat oddly here; those qualities work well for the character at times, but are grating at others.
  
  
#31 -- The Outer Limits: "The Revelations of 'Becka Paulson" (1997)
  
  
  
  
This one is a curious case if only due to the nature of the material it is adapting.  The short story "The Revelations of 'becka Paulson" was originally published in a 1985 issue of Rolling Stone and was also included in a limited-edition of the story collection Skeleton Crew the same year.

Most King fans did not encounter it until King revised it substantially and then incorporated it into his 1987 novel The Tommyknockers.  That particular chapter featured fairly prominently in the miniseries adaptation, too.

This episode of the revamped Outer Limits, however, is an adaptation of the Rolling Stone version of the tale, which means that Tommyknockers fans who are curious about how the original version was different have the option of checking this episode out to satisfy their curiosity.

It's a pretty good episode.  Catherine O'Hara is the star, and I'm all for Catherine O'Hara starring in things.
  
Sidebar: I've got the same complaint with the nineties version of The Outer Limits that I have about the eighties Twilight Zone: no graceful way to refer to it while making it clear which version of the series I'm talking about.  Ah, well; First World Problems rear their head yet again.


#30 -- The Dark Half (1993)




This is by no means a bad movie, but it certainly isn't as good as one might have hoped for from a George A. Romero adaptation of a Stephen King novel.  This biggest problem is that the premise -- a writer's forcibly-retired pseudonym comes to life and starts wreaking havoc -- is so loopy that it resists almost all attempts to take it seriously.  In the novel, King manages to get away with this, partly by the strength of his writing (both in terms of the sheer quality of the prose and in terms of the strength of the underlying themes) and partly by the bread crumbs he leaves that enable a reader to concoct enough of an explanation so as to make the whole endeavor work.  It hangs on the precipice of falling apart; hangs there by its bare fingernails; but it DOES avoid plummeting to the rocks beneath.
 
The movie does not have the benefit of King's prose, so what it has instead is a solid setup, some quality mayhem, good performances (especially from Timothy Hutton), and a resolution that simply does not work on film.  Romero gives it his all, but in the end, we're left with a movie whose whole does not equal the sum of its parts.
 
Still, it has its moments.  (If you have an interest in reading even more of my thoughts about this movie, here's a post that will scratch that itch for you.)


#29 -- Rose Red (2002)




The last time I rewatched this movie I enjoyed it more than I ever had before.  I think it's still mostly a failure, though.  It isn't particularly scary, and it never really manages to come together in any meaningful way.  You're left wondering what the point of it all was.  Who was this story about?  Why should we care?

However, the concept is great: a sort of super-team of psychics getting together is a fun idea, and the fact that the end result fails to take advantage of the concept fully doesn't make it less fun AS a concept.

The cast is a mixed bag.  Some of its members -- Julian Sands, Melanie Lynskey, Emily Deschanel, Jimmi Simpson, and Kevin Tighe, among others -- do strong and distinctive work.  I'm on the fence about others, including Nancy Travis, who ostensibly plays the lead.  Travis is probably miscast as Joyce, but she's also victimized by the fact that King gives her no backstory, no rationale, and no arc.  Travis plays her as though she's the lead -- as I'm sure she was directed to do -- but the screenplay does not give her any support in this endeavor.  None of this is Travis's fault.

A few other performances are nerve-gratingly poor.  Laura Kenny plays the mother of one of the investigators, and King's goal for her seems to be for her to be the most galling character ever to appear in a movie.  He'd already created both Trash Can Man and Craig Toomey, so you'd think he'd have nothing additional to prove in that regard; perhaps he felt the need to shorten the gender gap among his most appallingly annoying creations.

If so, he failed, because the son of this character is every bit as bad as the mother.  Emory Waterman is his name.  He's played by Matt Ross, who excels at bringing that gape-mouthed, heavy-breathing, incredibly whiny fellow to life.  If I'm being objective then I think I have to conclude that he delivers a very good performance insofar as King is patently demanding that he portray a character who is the human equivalent of nails scraping a chalkboard.  Should we blame that on Ross, or on King and director Craig Baxley?  You be the judge.
  
 
#28 -- Maximum Overdrive (1985)
  
  
  
  
What can you say about Maximum Overdrive?
 
That it's a terrible movie?  It certainly is.
 
That Stephen King might have been better off to not try his hand at directing?  I'd say that's a fair statement.
 
That the production seems to have been haunted by the incompetent hand of Edward D. Wood, Jr., infamous director of such turds as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen Or Glenda?   Yes, that's fair, too, because this movie verges on sheer ineptitude, just as Wood's films do.
 
It's hard to argue with any of that.
 
And yet, I find Maximum Overdrive to be a lot of fun.  It is not a good movie in any way, but a movie doesn't have to be good in order to cause enjoyment.  In this case, you have a movie that involves sentient eighteen-wheelers on the rampage.  You get to see people electrocuted by arcade games, killer soda machines that use their own sodas as weapons (!), Little Leaguers who get run over by a steamroller, and an ATM machine that tells its customer (Stephen King in a glorious cameo) to go fuck himself.   In one scene, the owner of a diner produces a rocket launcher, seemingly from nowhere, and explodes a truck with it!  In another, a Bible salesman is run over.  This is all set to a musical score written by AC/DC!
 
Brothers and sisters, that puts a smile on my face.
 
The acting is awful, as is the dialogue and the editing and the cinematography and the shot composition and almost everything else.  But by God, it's fun, and so what if the reasons it's fun were maybe not necessarily intended?  I'd bet you a gajillion dollars that the first human being to create fire didn't do it on purpose, either, but that doesn't keep me from using it to cook a steak every now and then.
  
I suspect a lot of people would look at how high up the list this movie has managed to get and feel that I'd lost all credibility.  If that's your take, fair enough.  However, I find this to be such a marvel of tackiness that I simply can't write it off; the movie has replay value that others on the list do not.  For me, you understand; your mileage may vary.
  
But also, as a King fan, I'd say this movie represents a sort of pinnacle.  By the mid-eighties, King had become a legitimate superstar, and in its attempts to cash in on that notoriety, Hollywood was throwing everything against the wall that they thought might stick.  I'd argue that this movie was the pinnacle of that mountain of tastelessness; others say it was the infamous American Express commercial, but I'd cite Maximum Overdrive as captain of the U.S.S. King-Cash-In.  In my heart, I feel like maybe King recognized that that was what was happening, and decided to try and put an end to it by steering the ship onto a reef.
  
All I know is, I'd watch Maximum Overdrive before 1408 any day of the week.  That's got to count for something.


#27 -- Needful Things (1993)




I may be swimming against the tide on this one, but hey, so be it: I like this movie.  Sure, a lot of the novel is left out.  Guess what?  Not as much as you think: a three-hour cut of the movie pops up on television once in a blue moon, and it makes up a LOT of ground in that added hour of runtime.
 
The cast is a big part of what makes the thing work for me.  Ed Harris is just fine playing a cop, and Bonnie Bedelia is also just fine as his much-suffering ladyfriend, but the real stars here are the bad guys: Max Von Sydow playing Leland Gaunt and J.T. Walsh playing Danforth "Buster" Keeton.  They're both having a grand old time, and they take every bit of scenery they have and run with it like a dog frolicking with a Frisbee; and honestly, who doesn't enjoy seeing dogs frolicking with Frisbees?  Fucking nobody, THAT'S who.
 
Also on hand and doing good work: the ever-nutty Amanda Plummer (she's almost as good as Sydow and Walsh).  Major bonus points for an excellent score by Patrick Doyle, who was best-known around this time as director Kenneth Branagh's go-to guy; he'd done fine scores for Branagh films like Henry V and Dead Again, and he brought that same energy to Castle Rock, Maine.  It's easily one of the best scores ever composed for a King movie.
 
Overall, this probably isn't the best possible adaptation of the novel, but I think it's an underrated movie, one that has an abundance of wit, charm, and intrigue, if no real scares.  The climax doesn't add up to much, unfortunately, and I think that's probably a big part of the reason why the movie failed to catch on.


#26 -- Carrie (2013)
  
  
  
  
See, the thing is, we already know her name.  And since the idea of people not knowing her name is a non-issue in the movie itself, I have to ask: why was this movie's marketing campaign so heavily focused on that tagline?

It's a mystery.

The movie, however, is rather good.  There are a few missteps, such as a weak-as-hell final scene and some heavy-handed editing.  However, Julianne Moore is phenomenal, Chloe Grace Moretz is solid, and director Kimberly Peirce does a strong job visually.  There was no particular reason to remake the movie (and don't try to sell me that load of bullshit about this being a readaptation of the novel instead of a remake of the movie; it demonstrably IS a remake of the movie); but if it had to be done, this was a decent outcome.

Here is a lengthier review (and here a lengthier one still), if you want to know more of my thoughts on the subject.



#25 -- Hearts in Atlantis (2001)




Even though he has been a part of a decent number of mediocre movies, you've got to pay at least a little bit of attention any time an actor the caliber of Anthony Hopkins takes on a role.  As someone who loved the novel Hearts In Atlantis, I was fairly thrilled to learn that Hopkins would be playing Ted Brautigan in a movie adaptation.
 
Unfortunately, the final film didn't quite manage to live up to my lofty expectations, but that's okay; it's a rather good movie despite that.

(By the way, as I write this, Hopkins is currently co-starring on HBO's Westworld alongside fellow King-movie alumni Ed Harris and Jimmi Simpson.)
 
The biggest complaint that most King fans have is the most obvious one: that the screenplay jettisons all of the Dark Tower references and changes the villainous Low Men from otherworldly monsters into what seem to be run-of-the-mill G-men.  This is a sensible complaint if you're a major Towerphile.  However, if you're a serious Towerphile, you've already got a ready-made excuse: this version of the story simply takes place on some other level of the Tower, and in that version of reality, things play out differently.
 
See how easy that was?  If you find it necessary to do so, you can actually use this trick to explain away all sorts of things that bother you about King adaptations.
 
Either way, I don't think Hearts In Atlantis -- which, you will note, has nothing to do with the section of Hearts In Atlantis titled "Hearts In Atlantis" (it is, instead, an adaptation of "Low Men In Yellow Coats") -- is a great movie.  The tone is off in places; most of the scenes between Bobby and his mother feel totally forced.  However, the scenes between the kids are great, and the scenes between Bobby and Ted are great.  Hopkins, as almost always is the case, does a terrific job, and he is nearly matched by young Anton Yelchin (who went on to high-profile co-star roles in movies like Star Trek and Terminator Salvation before passing away in a tragic car accident).  David Morse is also good as grown-up Bobby.
 
Not a home run; but it definitely gets on base.
  
  
#24 -- Creepshow 2 (1987)




 
Thanks for the ride, lady!  This sequel was not directed by George Romero, nor was it written by Stephen King; instead, it was scripted by Romero from three King stories (one of them a published story, and two of them story concepts).   How ya doin' lady?  Thanks!  Thanks for the ride!  The direction was handled by Michael Gornick, who did a so-so job with what seems to have been a limited budget.  Thanks for the ride, lady!  As a result, what you've got here is a sporadically charming effort that simply doesn't measure up to the original, and arguably shouldn't have been made at all.  Thanks for the ride!  After all, if a sequel can't be made well, sometimes it's okay to just not make it at all.  Certainly it's true that the animated bookends are lousy.  Thanks for the ride ... lady!  But "Old Chief Woodenhead" is okay, and I like "The Raft" just fine.  Thanks for the ride, lady!  Hey!  Thanks for the ride!  The final segment, "The Hitchhiker," is so stupid that's it's kinda fun; if nothing else, it may give you a vaguely amusing inside joke you can share with anyone else who has seen the movie.
  
Yeah, you know, all things considered, this movie is okay.  I'd have been happy for there to be an endless string of sequels provided they were at least this good.
  
  
#23 -- Firestarter (1984)
  
  
   
  
Why do people hate this movie so much?  It's not exactly Oscar-winning material, sure, but I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as most people seem to do.  (Conversely, I don't like 1408 the way most of my fellow Kingphiles do, so maybe this is a case of me being wrong where everyone else is right.  More likely, "right" and "wrong" don't factor into it at all; it's just personal preference.)
  
As a movie, it's got serious problems: it feels quite cheap and rushed in certain places, and the special effects (i.e., wind) added to Drew Barrymore's hair are, to be charitable, silly.
 
However, people also like to trash the casting of George C. Scott as Native American psychopath/assassin John Rainbird, and I am not on board with those complaints.  Why?  Well, for one thing, if you have the opportunity to cast George C. Scott circa 1984, you cast George C. Scott.  Is he plausible as a Native American?  Nope.  Is he plausible as a psychopathic assassin?  Yep.  I call that a net win.
 
I also really like Drew Barrymore here (she's not great, but she seems authentic enough), and David Keith, and Martin Sheen.  Overall, it's a solid cast, and director Mark L. Lester gets as many things right as he gets wrong.  The music by Tangerine Dream is groovy.

I think this one gets a bad rap.
  
  
#22 -- Silver Bullet (1985)
  
  
   
  
This low-key charmer works relatively well as a monster movie, and it also works relatively well as a coming-of-age story.  Filmed from one of King's better screenplays (based on the novella Cycle of the Werewolf), it's got some genuine heart to it, and while it isn't particularly scary, it's got some good creature effects and some decent gore.  Best of all, it's got Terry O'Quinn and Gary Busey, who are always fun to watch.
   
The movie is maybe most notable for being one of the very few films in which someone in a wheelchair gets to be an adventure hero.  And here, it's a kid in a wheelchair!  That probably has made this a favorite movie of many a handicapped kid in its day; I'd love to see a top-notch remake at some point, just to give a new generation of kids on wheels a hero they can take some pride in.  That'd be pretty cool.

Lest it seem as though I'm overpraising a trifle of a movie, I should specify that this movie does have a super high cheese factor, and that might well make you vastly less sympathetic toward the movie than I am.
  
  
#21 -- The Night Flier (1997)
  
  
  
  
Here's a movie that probably shouldn't work, but somehow does.  The Night Flier is the story of a tabloid reporter who is investigating a series of apparent vampire incidents, all of which seemingly involve a "night flier" who owns his own plane and uses it to hop from burg to burg, feeding on the innocent.  He nicknames himself Dwight Renfield, on account of how Dwight Frye played Renfield in the Tod Browning version of Dracula.  Cute.
 
In no possible world should that movie work.  Hell, the story it's based on only barely works.
 
And for some people maybe this movie doesn't work, but it works for me.  A great deal of that is due to lead actor Miguel Ferrer, who -- and please pardon the pun (which isn't even appropriate) -- sinks his teeth into a meaty role as the reporter, Richard Dees.  Ferrer is obviously having a blast, and this movie makes it evident that he ought to have gotten more lead roles in his day.
 
Julie Entwisle, who plays a cub reporter Dees tries his best to thwart throughout the film, seems to have dropped out of acting after this role.  She's not giving Oscar-caliber work or anything, but she's got conviction and easy on the eye.  She's got a haunted sort of innocence that works for the character.
 
Director Mark Pavia seems to understand that tone is everything, and what the movie might be lacking in some aspects (not every role is filled as well as those filled by Ferrer and Entwisle), it makes up for with tone.  Pavia also knows how to pace a scene and how to compose a shot.  Why he hasn't been able to make more movies since is a mystery to me.  It seems like a goddamn shame.  Just this year, he finally got his second movie made: Fender Bender, which I have not yet seen but plan to buy myself for Christmas.
  
  
#20 -- The Stand (1994)
  
  
  
  
If you've read this far into this post, you're well aware by now of the fact that I am not a Mick Garris fan.  So you know that when I say "The Stand is my favorite Mick Garris movie," I'm not necessarily being complimentary.  However, in this case, I think I'd say The Stand mostly gets the job done; in no way is it as good a miniseries as the novel is a novel, but that was a high bar to clear.
 
There are parts of it that work well.  For example: Gary Sinise is an excellent Stu Redman.  Also, the score by Snuffy Walden is really good.  Perhaps most important, ABC gave the miniseries four nights over which to develop, so King's epic actually has some breathing space.  Not enough (it could have used even more); but hey, at least it wasn't crammed into two nights like It was a few years previously.  So those are pluses, and then there's the fact that it's just a thrill to see one of King's true epics spooling out on screen.
 
Unfortunately, there is also a lot to dislike here.  Let's start with the casting of a few key roles: Molly Ringwald is awful as Frannie, and she's not as bad as Matt Frewer (whose performance as Trashcan Man is one of the most annoying I have ever seen).  Neither is Jamey Sheridan, who has some good moments, but is badly hampered by Garris's inability to effectively frame a shot, and was, in my opinion, miscast.  Kareem Abdul Jabbar shows up, for some reason.   Corin Nemec is awful as Harold; Shawnee Smith is awful as Julie; Rick Avila as the Rat Man seems to be playing Wolfman Jack, but as if Wolfman Jack was a robot designed to annoy humans to death; and so forth.  Laura San Giacomo is pretty bad, too, although she has good moments.
 
Rob Lowe does reasonably well, as do Ruby Dee, Ray Walston, Bill Fagerbakke, and Miguel Ferrer; they, combined, do not make up for the suck that is the Trashcan Man.  I also quite like Adam Storke as Larry, but he can only help so much.
 
The underlying problem is that Garris seemingly doesn't know how to make scenes realistic on film, or perhaps has no interest in doing so; instead we get a lot of scenes in which people don't behave like anything approximating human beings.  I've chatted with at least one fan who feels this style is a throwback to the Roger Corman and William Castle days, and maybe he's onto something there; remind me to never see any of those movies, because if they're like Garris's, I'm better off without them.

I wrote a four-part review of the miniseries, which can be found here, here, here, and here.  There are great screencaps, if nothing else, so go check 'em out, won't you?  During that process I rediscovered a bit of my appreciation for the miniseries, and I'm always pleased when my blogging process has that result.
  
  
#19 -- The Running Man (1987)
  
  
   
  
I may as well admit that I feel a bit of a personal connection to this as a Stephen King movie, because it was this flick that caused me to read my first King novel: I wasn't able to go see the movie, which came out when I was 13, so I read the book instead.  (If you want to know more about that, I wrote about it at length here.)
 
It's a cheeseball '80s action flick, and whether you can stomach it depends in part on whether you've got any love for that era's idea of what an action hero was.  If you can only look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and roll your eyes, then this is not going to be the movie for you.
 
Also making it a bit of a roadblock for King fans is the fact that the movie really has very little to do with the novel.  It's not quite an adapfaketion, but it gets close: some character names stay the same, and the concept -- a televised "Most Dangerous Game" -- is ported over; otherwise, that's about it.  However, it's worth pointing out that Schwarzenegger was a huge star at the time, and it says a lot about how the producers valued the basic concept that they felt it had mass-market potential.
 
I kinda dig the movie, personally.  It's cheesy, it's goofy, it's silly; it's all that.  However, it's also got occasional moments of real wit, and as a piece of satire it has somehow managed to cease being futuristic and has tangentially relevant to our own times.  If you're a Schwarzenegger fan, you'll have fun with this, and it's also got a great villainous performance by Richard Dawson, plus a vintage score by Harold Faltermeyer (about whom you can, and should, read more in this post at Dog Star Omnibus).
  
  
#18 -- Pet Sematary (1989)
  
  
  
  
There is a lot -- A LOT -- about this movie that doesn't work.  The casting is somewhat pedestrian, and while both of the leads -- Dale Midkiff and a post-Next Generation Denise Crosby -- are okay, they don't elevate the material in the way you'd like your leads to do.  Some of the other casting decisions have a similar impact, and the editing is weak in certain places.
 
And yet, somehow, this flick works.  Give roughly 25% of the credit for that to the source material, which translates rather well into a b-movie frightfest.  Give another 25% or so to the kid playing Gage, 10% more to the score by Elliot Goldenthal, and most of whatever is left to Fred Gwynne (ol' Herman Munster himself, who plays Jud Crandall in a memorably scene-chewing -- and yet, somehow, restrained -- fashion).
 
On the other hand, the staging of certain scenes -- I'm thinking here specifically of anything involving Pascow -- is quite bad, and all in all, the movie fails to do justice to the novel.  "Wait," I imagine you saying, possibly aloud; "didn't you just say the source material translates well?"  You're correct.  I did say that.  And it's true.  But here, it translates into a b-movie.  It ought to be an a-movie, or whatever you call the real deal.  The novel is gripping, horrifying, memorable supernatural drama, laced with huge dollops of moral ambiguity.  There's no reason a film can't be made from it that would be among the most unsettling ever made.
 
This isn't that.
 
But it does have its moments, and for that, I give it relatively high marks.
  
  
#17 -- Cat's Eye (1985)
  
  
   
  
This is an awfully cheesy movie, and if you don't believe me, think about Alan King lip-syncing a terrible cover version of "Every Breath You Take."  Yep, that happened.  That Ray Stevens song on the end credits happened, too.  Who, you might ask, is Ray Stevens?  Beats me; but he performs a song called "Cat's Eye," which surely ranks as one of the most gloriously awful of all end-credits songs in Hollywood history.  It's awful; oh, how I love it.  [UPDATE: it has come to my attention that Ray Stevens was a member of the Village People.  So no wonder that song is groovy!]
 
For all the movie's cheesiness, though, I think there's something fundamentally charming about it: it's cheesy, but it works that it's cheesy.  Maybe that's just the cat-lover in me coming out.  More likely, it's the anthology-film lover in me coming out.
 
Of the three segments, it's hard to say which one works best.  All three are good, and I'm hard-pressed to pick a favorite.  "Quitters, Inc." has the twin virtues of James Woods and the above-mentioned Alan King; "The Ledge" has an entertainingly brutal premise, plus Kenneth McMillan; and "The General" has kitty-cat heroics, great special effects, and a solid dark-fairy-tale feel that makes it an unlikely but undeniable bit of kiddie bait.
 
In fact, despite the mildly inappropriate subject matter of the first two segments, the movie overall has the tone and feel of a low-budget kid's movie, and even has some of the cartoonish logic that can be typical of that genre.  I'd be curious to know if either King (who wrote the screenplay) or director Lewis Teague had that goal in mind in any way.
 
Overall, this is no masterpiece, but I think it's a fun little movie that has very definite selling points.  And I think it's improving with age, which is not something that is true of a lot of King's movies.
  
  
#16 -- Secret Window (2004)
  
  
   
  
Here's a movie that feels as though it's gone under-appreciated.  Personally, I thought it was really quite good, with an outstanding -- and comparatively restrained -- performance by Johnny Depp anchoring it.
 
In key supporting roles, there are good turns by Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, and Charles S. Dutton, but playing opposite Depp as the film's second-most-important actor is John Turturro.  Now, I've got a theory.  It may not be true, but let's put it to the test: you either like or dislike this movie based on whether you like or dislike what Turturro is doing in his role.  This is by no means a universally loved film, even among King fans, and a lot of the negative opinions I've encountered have keyed on Turturro's role as John Shooter.
 
I'll admit, it is a broad performance, occasionally verging on cartoonish.  However, I think it works well for the movie; having a more realistic performance for that role might have been the wrong approach.
 
In any case, I keep hoping the tide of opinion will begin to shift as regards this movie.  I don't think it's a classic or anything, but I do think it deserves more praise than it receives.  It also deserves more praise than, say, 1408 receives.  That movie sucks.
  
For a longer review of the movie, check out this post. 
  
  
#15 -- Salem's Lot (1979)
  
  
   
  
The second-ever filmed adaptation of King's work, Salem's Lot was produced for television and was originally shown over the course of two nights, a week apart.  It later ended up in European cinemas, in a drastically cut-down form.  I've never seen that theatrical edit; I'd like to some day, just to say I've seen it.
 
It doesn't really hold a candle to the novel, but I still like this adaptation a lot.  It was directed by Tobe Hooper, who had previously directed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and would go on to direct Poltergeist three years later; Salem's Lot is not as good as either of those classics, but it's held up quite well over the years, and remains a favorite movie that I tend to watch every other October or so.
 
A lot of what makes it work for me comes down to tone: it's got a great autumnal feeling of things that are slowly beginning to slide into decay and dissolution.  That tone is reflected in almost every aspect of the movie, from the excellent production design to the costumes to the performances to the cinematography.  It isn't a perfect movie: the pace seems badly off in terms of the editing (too many scenes have a tendency to begin or end in what seems like a haphazardly-timed fashion), and it could have used a bit more of the novel's hints toward a rich town history.  However, Hooper and screenwriter Paul Monash get a lot right, and I'd wager a guess that it seems like near-genius compared to most of what would have been on television in 1979.  [UPDATE: Having rewatched the movie recently, I found myself wondering how I'd feel about that editing if I were seeing the movie as it was intended to be seen: with commercial breaks.  After all, this WAS a television movie, and if the editing was customized to that medium rather than to DVD, then is that "badly off" pace really due to the editing or to my faulty perceptions?  Something to consider.]
 
One thing I love: the Marsten house, which looks great, and is clearly an homage to Psycho.  The interior also has echoes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which means that the Marsten house is calling to mind both of the two most famous movies that were inspired by the Ed Gein case.  That might creep even Barlow out.
 
Well, maybe not this version of Barlow.  In the novel, he's a traditionally Dracula-like figure, menacing and horrible but not without charm.  Here, he is a monster, one who is visually more than a bit reminiscent of the original Nosferatu.  The first time I watched the movie -- which would have been in an airing on TBS, I think, probably around Halloween 1990 -- I nearly 'bout shit my pants when Barlow appeared the first time.  Yeek!
 
Other things to love: the music by Harry Sukman; Geoffrey Lewis, especially in his scenes as a vampire; the floating vampire kids (cheesy, yes; creepy, yes); a super-fine Bonnie Bedelia; James Mason, having a glorious old scene-chewing time as Straker; and Fred Willard in a pair of red boxers.  I also quite like David Soul as Ben; apparently a lot of people do not, but for me, he works just fine.  Better than fine, actually; I think he's pretty great.
 
Between this version and the decidedly-less-good 2004 remake, the novel hasn't quite been done justice, still.  But between the two, most of it has been represented on film.  I continue to hope for a solid ten-part HBO miniseries someday, but I suspect no matter how good such a theoretical project might (theoretically) end up being, I'm going to forever have a soft spot for the 1979 version.
  
  
#14 -- Room 237 (2012)
  
  
   
  
Not based on a King book at all, but instead centered on a movie that itself is based on a King book, Room 237 arguably ought not be included on this list at all.
  
But it's my list, and I can do what I want, so nanna-nanna-boo-boo.

A lot of people roll their eyes at Room 237, but I think this is a terrific movie.  It presents five interviewees who have one lunacy or another to spout about Kubrick's The Shining, ranging from faked-lunar-landing conspiracy theory to metaphor-for-Native-American-genocide readings.  And so forth.

But that's not what Room 237 is about.  It's about the way in which we watch and interpret things.  It is beautifully-edited, has a sly sense of humor, and is well worth your time.

Here's a lengthier review, if you're interested in reading more about the movie.
  
  
 #13 -- Christine (1983)
  
  
  
  
I love John Carpenter.
 
As you will find if you follow that link, I even love some of the lesser films in his filmography, such as The Ward and Ghosts of Mars.  I make no real argument for them being works of high art, but as I've said elsewhere during this post, it CAN be enough to merely love the things you love.
 
That said, I think Christine is a rather good movie (an opinion that was reinforced when I had the opportunity to see the movie theatrically for the first time ever).  Not perfect, by any means; the climactic confrontation doesn't quite work, despite some effective individual moments, and it's hard to argue that the character work is as strong as it ought to be.  The three leads are all fairly good, though, and each brings more to the movie than was present in the screenplay.
 
However, the concept -- a killer car -- is such a fundamentally goofy one that if Carpenter had not managed to make the car cool as hell, the movie would have been utterly laughable.  Carpenter's best decision was to avoid trying to make the car scary; instead, he made it cool, which is what we all really want it to be anyways.  Then, by giving the movie a slightly chilly tone (much of it accomplished through Carpenter's excellent score) he was able to make it the type of movie that sticks with you, even if it doesn't scare you.  At the time, I think the movie was perceived as a failure due to those lack of scares, but I'd argue that it has held up extremely well in the intervening decades.
 
Your mileage may vary, of course.
 
I would like now to quote from my worst-to-best of Carpenter list (from the comments about Christine):
 
"Also, let me state for the record: I don't care that the dude playing high-school bully Buddy Repperton (a) appears to be 47 years old, (b) looks amazingly like Diet John Travolta, (c) can't act, and (d) can't act.  Why don't I care?  Because he has great, great hair, and is somehow still menacing despite all of these things working against him; but mostly it's the hair, which I would kill multiple people to possess."  
  
  
#12 -- Creepshow (1982)
  
  

   
  
Here's a movie that is a bit difficult to assess.  On the one hand, it has terrible acting, is as cheesy as a pizza, and ... well, did I mention the acting?
 
On the other hand, those aspects seem like virtues.  The movie IS cheesy, yes; but in a glorious way, and in a knowing way, too.  It's cheesy on purpose; it's almost like King and Romero have their arms draped around your shoulders, and they're saying to you, "Hey, look, I know you can't take one second of this shit seriously, and you know you can't take one second of this shit seriously, but here, have a few beers and let's have us a good time, pal!"  And then the three of you go traipsing off into the distance, hollering and singing and kicking rocks and not really worrying about how stupid that dance Ed Harris does is, or how bad an actor the guy playing Jordy Verrill (who looks oddly familiar...) is, or how weird those shots of the maintenance man talking through the door in the final segment are.
 
I'd say the odds are good that if you are seriously bothered by things like that, you are probably the type of person who would never watch a movie like Creepshow in the first place.
 
So, as with Maxmimum Overdrive, what we're really talking about here is a movie that ought to not be judged in the same way you would judge, say, The Green Mile.  I'm a believer in judging a movie based on how successfully it achieves what I perceive to be its goals, and I think this one achieves its goals admirably.  That "terrible" acting...?  It's mostly great, because it is successful, and just about everyone knows exactly what they are doing, and carries it off with great skill.
 
Worst segment: "Father's Day."  Best segment: I'll cast my vote for "The Crate."
    
You've also just GOT to love the fact that King's son Joe plays the little boy in the wraparound segments.  That little fucker went on the become the author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns and NOS4A2; very, very cool.
 
Final note: the score by John Harrison is not only THE best score to any Stephen King movie, it's also one of the all-time best horror movie scores.  Nary an October goes by without me listening to the CD half a dozen times or so.  Classic stuff.
  
  
#11 -- The Mist (2007)
  
  
   
  
For whatever reason, The Mist is slipping a bit in my estimation; last time I made this list, I had it ranked at #6, whereas this time, it's fallen just outside the top ten.  I can't immediately say why that would be, but it's been a few years since I watched it, so maybe it's recency-bias at work.
  
Or maybe it's that some of this movie is just not particularly great.  The effects, for example; the CGI budget on the movie was apparently rather low, and it shows in places.  I also think the movie could have been very, very scary, and isn't.  That seems like a bit of a shame.  There are also places where the acting is perhaps not as good as it could have been (Thomas Jane has a few overwrought moments right at the end that threaten to blunt what is otherwise one of the sharpest endings to a horror film that I've ever seen).
 
Otherwise, though, I have little but praise for Frank Darabont's The Mist.  Overall, I think it's one of the best horror movies made during my adult life; granted, it's not scary, but it's disturbing as hell.  I won't ruin the above-mentioned ending for those of you who haven't seen it, but suffice it to say that it is a gut-punch, a kidney-punch, a nut-punch, a tittie-twist, and a pimp-slap, all simultaneously delivered by someone who wants to hurt you.  Apparently, some people feel it went too far.  Me, I feel like horror ought to actually horrify every once in a while.
 
Well, here it is.  Enjoy!

Side-note: don't fall for the allegation that the black and white version is better than the color version.  That's nonsense.  The black and white version is fine, but it's not genuine black and white.  If you're old enough to remember this, it's like watching a color movie on a black-and-white-only television.  And if you're into that sort of thing, I guess that's okay for you.  But for me, this is a color movie, and that's the way I'll watch it.
  
  
#10 -- Dolores Claiborne (1995)
  
  
   
  
When this movie came out, I went to see it with several then-co-workers, one of whom had, like me, read the novel.  As we were walking out, he went on and on about how much he hated the movie because it didn't follow the novel.  And I've heard a few similar opinions online since I started my blog.
 
I don't get it.  Do the differences between the novel and the movie really make that big a difference?  Do they negate the outstanding performances by Kathy Bates, David Strathairn, and Christopher Plummer?  Or the expert cinematography by Gabriel Beristain?  The terrific score by Danny Elfman?  The sharp screenplay by Tony Gilroy?
 
Not in my book, they don't.
 
Folks, this is perhaps THE most underrated of all Stephen King movies.  To be honest, I think it's a great film just in general.  Kathy Bates is every bit as good here as she is in Misery, and I am still waiting on someone to tell me why -- apart from a vague and general "it's not like the book" -- it isn't more highly regarded.
  
  
#9 -- Cujo (1983)
  
  
   
  
It seems like a crock of shit that Dee Wallace didn't get an Oscar nomination for this movie, because she is great.  She's great in the car-under-siege scenes, but she's arguably just as great earlier in the film, when she is playing a normal woman dealing with rather severe marital problems.  She ought, on the basis of this and E.T., to have become a major star.  She didn't, and I have a feeling that movies from 1984 forward were poorer for it.
 
Also a crock of shit: that the AMPAS does not award an Oscar for animal training.  Along with stunt coordination, it's one of the major oversights of that always-controversial organization.  If ever an Oscar for animal training deserved to be given out, it was to whomever was responsible for the dogs who played Cujo in this movie.  Of course, a lot of the credit for that goes to director Lewis Teague; and let's also reserve some for cinematographer Jan DeBont and editor Neil Travis, who combined to create a menacing atmosphere that was awesome then and is still awesome now.
 
There will probably be a remake someday, and it's all but certain that in many cases, the dogs will be CGI.  Maybe it'll work and maybe it won't, but I'm guessing it won't work as well as this.

I had occasion to see the movie in a theatre for the first time a couple fo years ago, and I'll repeat something I've said before: good movies are so much better in a theatre, assuming you're not sitting in an audience full of dickbags.  I wasn't, and so the virtues of Cujo seemed even more virtuous than ever before: Stone is great, and the animal training is great, but there's more to it than that.  The entire cast is good, and the music by Charles Bernstein works extremely well.  The movie is still surprisingly scary, too.

My only complaint: the film ends too abruptly.  I could have used a modicum of epilogue, although I also understand the desire to get out early while the gettin' is good.
  
  
#8 -- Storm of the Century (1999)
  
   
  
It's possible that I overvalue this movie.  I don't think I do, but it is possible.
 
Here's my opinion: I think this is easily the best thing that Stephen King has written directly for the screen.  Apart from that, I think it is the best King movie/miniseries produced for television, and one of the best films overall to be based on work by King.  The reasons for that are numerous, but I think the simplest is probably that it is the one that comes the closest to replicating for the screen what King is able to do in his lengthier novels: i.e., create a solid cast of characters and then spend the time necessary to make us fully invested in them.  Add to that the fact that King's story and plot are effective, clear, and satisfying from beginning all the way to the end, and what you've got is a bit of a classic.
 
For one thing, the cast is top-notch: Tim Daly, Colm Feore, Debrah Farentino, Jeffrey DeMunn, Julianne Nicholson, Becky Ann Baker, Casey Siemaszko, they're all really good.  Heck, even Stephen King himself is effective in a creepy cameo, and when Stephen King turns in a good performance, you know things have gone well from an acting standpoint.
 
More to the point, this is the one King original screenplay that seems essential within his canon.  Yeah, sure, you can make an argument for Creepshow, and maybe even for Cat's Eye, but the rest...?  Not so much.  I think it's telling that of his screenplays, this is one of the only ones King has allowed to be published in its entirety.  I think he's proud of it, and he should be.

If there's a downside to Storm of the Century, it's overlength.  I don't mind a sprawling tale, either on the page or on film, and this film's length is not a major drawback for me.  However, the length causes a certain amount of repetitiveness that arguably weakens certain aspects.  Example: how many time did we need to see Linoge bare his teeth while people weren't looking?  I'd argue we needed to see it once; instead, the movie gives it to us what seems like about a dozen times, and that's WAY too many.

If elements like that mean more to you than they mean to me, you won't be as impressed by this movie as I am.
  
  
#7 -- The Dead Zone (1983)
  
  
   
  
I'm a horror fan in addition to being a King fan, and one of the areas of horror film in which I am the most lamentably weak is on the subject of David Cronenberg.  I've never seen most of his major horror films, such as The Fly, Scanners, Rabid, The Brood, or Dead Ringers.  I loved A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, but when it comes to the rest of his work, I've been a slacker, and that's a mistake I will need to fix one of these days.
 
For now, though, I can only take people at their word when they say that The Dead Zone ought to be considered a somewhat surprising (but also very important) change in tone for Cronenberg.  I assume those people are right.  What I know is that this is a very good movie, one which has a terrific lead performance by Christopher Walken, from back in the days in which he was still an actor as opposed to a highly-amusing collection of verbal tics.  That's not to denigrate the man, either; it's just merely to point out that once upon a time, Walken could play a great role like this and not feel like a ham.
 
Also great: Martin Sheen, playing a psychotic political candidate; Michael Kamen, delivering a fine musical score; Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, and Anthony Zerbe in supporting roles; and Brooke Adams as John Smith's lost love Sarah.
  
  
 #6 -- Misery (1990)
  
  
  
  
It's hard to say much of anything negative about this movie.  I suppose I ought to try, though, so here goes.
 
Kathy Bates, great though she is, goes maybe a wee bit over the top in a few scenes, and director Rob Reiner seems all too happy to let her do it.  I might have preferred a quieter, more menacing approach to Annie Wilkes.
 
I'll leave it to you to determine whether or not you think I'm being honest with those sentiments.
 
Either way, Misery is a classic, and Bates gave an Oscar-winning performance that is probably one of the rare instances of the AMPAS defying the odds to actually get it right. (In retrospect, it's hard to believe they didn't fall into the trap of giving Julia Roberts the award for Pretty Woman.)
 
That said, I'd still like to demand that someone film a remake starring Bryan Cranston and Melissa Leo.  If they are unavailable, I will accept Michael Shannon and Cate Blanchett.  I'd like to see this no later than 2015, so chop-chop, y'all.  [UPDATE: the world has failed me yet again.  You give me Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as Presidential candidates, and can't give me a Misery remake starring Michael Shannon and Cate Blanchett?  Fuck you, world.]
  
  
#5 -- The Green Mile (1999)
  
  
  
  
There was never much chance that The Green Mile was going to become AS well-loved as The Shawshank Redemption.  Few movies manage that.  To me, though, it feels a bit as if nobody ever thinks of The Green Mile unless they are thinking of it as the less-accomplished sibling of Shawshank, and that's a fate the movie simply does not deserve.

By virtually any sane standard of judgment, The Green Mile is a classic film.  The performances are uniformly excellent; the screenplay is economical and effective, and occasionally inspired; the technical aspects are nearly flawless.  There's not much to complain about.

Some critics have alleged that the story shows evidence of racial insensitivity (namely the "magical Negro" syndrome), so if you're inclined to put stock in that argument, then you might have some complaints.

Otherwise, this HAS to be near the top of any list of the best King movies.
  
  
#4 -- Carrie (1976)
  
  
   
  
As with Christine, I had a chance to see this movie theatrically for the first time a couple of years ago, and while I was already a fan of Christine, I mostly was NOT a fan of Brian DePalma's adaptation of Carrie.

That has now changed.  There are still aspects of it that I do not care for -- I still think Piper Laurie is entirely too campy in certain scenes -- but overall, I've finally caught up with the rest of the King community and found some love for the film.
 
I still think a better version of Carrie can be made someday (the remake comes close, and even manages it in some aspects), but it's hard to deny that Sissy Spacek is great, and that the prom massacre is iconic, and that Piper Laurie -- campiness notwithstanding -- is very memorable in the villainous-mother role.  You get to see young John Travolta at his yuckiest; personally, I think he's just kinda goofy and not at all menacing, but hey, that's just me, and even so, it's fun to watch him.  I also like William Katt and Amy Irving and Nancy Allen a lot.
    
Then again, I despise the Psycho references in the score, and the actor playing the English teacher does an atrocious job, and the cornball buying-a-prom-tux scenes are just awful.  Having seen the movie with new eyes, though, those all seem like nitpicks; overall, there's simply no denying that this film is a classic.
  
  
#3 -- Stand By Me (1986)
  
  
   
  
Good lord, where do you even begin with this one?
 
Ah, hell, I'm not sure I'm even going to bother.  It's a great movie.  You know it, I know it, everyone knows it.
 
It was the first Stephen King movie I ever saw, I know that much for certain.  I saw it on HBO sometime in mid-1987, which makes it my first real exposure to King.  That meant nothing to me at the time; I doubt I even noticed his name, and may not have even knew who he was.  As I've written about elsewhere, the first King book I ever read was The Running Man, at around the time the movie came out in late 1987, so it's possible I read that book before I saw Stand By Me ... but I'm about 90% certain I saw this before I read The Running Man.
 
Those odds are good enough for me, so I am hereby officially claiming that Stand By Me was my first substantive exposure to Stephen King.  I would've been twelve when I saw it, which is kinda the perfect age for Stand By Me, if you think about it.
 
Sorry if my lack of insightful commentary bummed you out.  I may as well warn you, I've got little of use to say about the remaining titles, either.  When movies are this good, there's no real point.
  
  
#2 -- The Shining (1980)
  
  
  
  
In the great rivalries of life, you've got your Marvel fans versus your D.C. fans; you've got your Red Sox fans versus your Yankees fans; you've got your Coca-Cola fans versus your Pepsi fans; you've got the Crips versus the Bloods; you've got John Wayne versus Clint Eastwood; you've got Michael Jackson versus Prince; if you're an SEC football fan, you've got Alabama versus Auburn.  There's Metallica versus Megadeth, Paul versus John, Mario versus Zelda, and so forth.
 
And then you've got the case of The Shining, where the King fans and and the Kubrick fans pretend to be the Greasers and the Socs, and fight it out in the rain, hooting and hollering and cracking the occasional nose.
 
Now, in some of these cases, the choice is clear: Coke is clearly awesome, whereas Pepsi clearly tastes like socks; Auburn is clearly a mere pretender when compared to Alabama.
 
However, who in the hell likes either John Wayne or Clint Eastwood but not both?  Who rocks out to "Master of Puppets" but doesn't like "Symphony of Destruction"?  Who loves "Billie Jean" but can't stand "When Doves Cry"?  I'll tell you who: people who can't be trusted.
 
Well, in this particular instance, I think Stephen King -- one of the most vocal detractors of Kubrick's The Shining -- is on the wrong side of being trustworthy, which is another way of saying that I think Stephen King is wrong.  The Shining is a GREAT movie.  Not a bad one; not a decent one; not a good one.  A GREAT one.
 
For the record, that does not mean that I think the movie is better than the novel.  I don't.  I think they are both classics.  I've got no use for King fans who hate the Kubrick movie, but I've similarly got no use for Kubrick fans who dismiss the King novel; those people are fucking crazy, too (some of them, I suspect, literally).
 
But who I really and truly loathe are the people who think the Mick Garris miniseries is better than the Kubrick movie.
 
You people are sad.  You're like the people who look at the Metallica versus Megadeth debate and wonder why nobody is talking about Krokus.
 
All that aside, what Kubrick's The Shining has going for it is the power of pure cinema.  One of these days, I'm going to use the power of this blog to do a set of lengthy analyses of his entire filmography, and at that point I might come close to scratching the surface of what makes The Shining great.  I was strongly tempted to put it at #1 on the list this time, but for now, there's still no downgrading the next film.
  
  
#1 -- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  
  
  
  
This one is firmly entrenched as one of those rarest of movies, an Acknowledged Classic.  Acknowledged by whom?, you might ask.  Simple: by pretty much everyone.  Honestly, do you know anyone who has seen The Shawshank Redemption and doesn't love it?  Have you even heard of such a person?
 
Me neither.  I'm sure they must be out there.  Somewhere.
 
Here's how good The Shawshank Redemption is: even Tim Robbins is great in it.  Tim Robbins has given a few good performances over the course of his career, but he's never been cast so well as he was here, where his slight unknowability (he's a strangely personality-free actor, and one who therefore is, unless the material is perfect, hard to take seriously -- see also Keanu Reeves) made him perfect as Andy Dufresne.
 
Really, though, this is Morgan Freeman's movie.  Is this his finest role?  Hmm; it may be.
 
There is very little in the entire movie that does not approach perfection, from the villainous Bob Gunton and Clancy Brown and Mark Rolston to the humorous William Sadler to the heartbreaking James Whitmore to the Thomas Newman score to the Roger Deakins cinematography.
 
I don't want to say it's perfect, because nothing is.  But it legitimately approaches perfection, and that is a true rarity.
  
*****
  
And with that, my compadres, we have reached the end of the countdown.  What's next on the King-movie spectrum?  Well, there are quite a few in production of one sort or another: The Dark Tower and It will be hitting theatres next year, Gerald's Game will be streaming on Netflix, and the Mist is being spun off into a tv series on Spike.  Mr. Mercedes is also getting a tv-series treatment, this one debuting on some sort of AT&T/DirecTV channel whose name I can't remember and am too lazy to research.  There's evidently yet another Children of the Corn fauxquel in the works, which is oddly exciting to me.

Let's hope that at least some of those turn out better than Cell and A Good Marriage and some of the other recent dreck that has had King's name on it.
  
One way or another, I'll be seeing them.

19 comments:

  1. No grumpiness from my quarter on "Stranger Things." I wish I was into it the way others are. I think it's totally valid to cover it for a King blog. And heck, he's working on season two, right? So the crossover is notarized.

    I laughed at the V'ger line. I can't recall if that's from the previous rankings or a new joke, but if it's from a previous one, hey it still works for me. I would like to read a more in-depth analysis of the hows and whys you have the Children of the Corns in the order you do. (least to most: 2, 5, remake, 3, Revelation, Genesis, Isaac's Return, 4, original.) That'd be a fun post to read but perhaps not to write. Not that you don't provide enough info with each individual entry here, of course. Those are tough ones to binge watch or wipe out because... well, because they're all terrible, I guess, but terrible horror movies can be fun to watch, as we all know, and a King connection, however tenuous is always justification enough. But yeah - whatever momentum Dawn and I occasionally feel for such a thing is usually blunted before the first one is halfway done. Maybe the trick is one a year. We rewatched the first one this Halloween; maybe next year we'll endure the suckfest that is pt. 2. Which, like you say, at least is a continuation of the first one's story. (Oh joy.) Anyway, if I ever hit the lottery, I'll set you up as the man to write that book asking the filmmakers the hard questions like "Do you understand how any of this works? Because the evidence suggests otherwise... Have you ever even eaten CORN?"I can see that being like the old SNL skit where a Ref (John Goodman) is fielding calm questions from a studio audience about if he's actually blind, how he can breathe with his head up his ass, etc.

    Seriously, "Hell of a Band" and "Crouch End" are pretty fucking bad. How-does-one-make-something-this-awful level bad.

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    1. Sadly -- or not, given how his delvings into other folks' tv shows have typically gone -- that story about King writing season two of "Stranger Things" has been debunked. I'll be curious to see if the King references -- along with the Spielberg references, etc. -- continue into the second season.

      The "Children of the Corn" rankings are simple: gut reaction, pure and simple. I don't remember enough about most of them to justify it in any way, so I rely on the degree of coloration in the warm/cold spot in my gut. I'd love to commit to doing a full series watchthrough on that and blogging them up properly, but who could feel good about such a thing? Maybe someday, when I get to the short story in my glacial chronological explorations of King's short stories.

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    2. In a way I'm happy to hear that about s2 of ST, as I wasn't planning on tuning in for it but kinda felt I'd have to if SK was writing it.

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  2. I wish there was a Lawnmower Man 3: Jobe's War Beyond Cyberspace pt. 2: THE RETURN (or something), just for that title.

    "Sometimes They Come Back" has to be the oddest source material for a trilogy of films.

    Unforgivable squandering "A Good Marriage" AND "Cell." Crazy. Those were Midnight Runs for Christ's sake! (Channelling my best Joe Pantoliano.) I wish we could tour different levels of the Tower; if they ever invent such things, I'm going to apply to be a King Adaptation tour guide. "See nothing but the best adaptations from Levels A-Z! You buys your ticket and you takes your chances..."

    I agree with all of your remarks for "Riding the Bullet." Very much so. Future generations - if we get there - will look back on the botox and butt implant era as some kind of collective madness, and it'll all be preserved in thousands and thousands of movies. Everytime I express distaste for this crazy Eye of the Beholder look so many actresses of a certain age go for I read some response about judging women differently or what not. I couldn't agree more that standards of beauty are outrageous and double standards abound and Hollywood as an industry has a lot to answer for/ reform, as well as the beauty industry altogether. You can believe all that AND be horrified at so many women doing this to their faces AND recognize that whatever else is going on, if the goal was to look better/ arrest the aging process, it's horribly off the mark. My personal theory is that some royal / oil heiress / producer's wife got the Botox-Eye-of-the-Beholder look accidentally in the 80s or 90s and had enough clout to influence things behind the scenes to get other women to play along, and in true monkey see monkey do fashion (particularly with royals and celebrities) it trickled on down the A and B and wannabe lists of Hollywood. This is all just speculation of course, but it says something about the depth of the problem / chaos that my brain needs some cohesive behind-the-scenes conspiracy because on the face of it it just makes no damn sense at all.

    That is officially the longest Barbara-Hershey-inspired rant I've ever engaged in. Thanks for the opportunity!

    Man does "Under the Dome" suck. I only could stand the first season, but I have the opposite of you, some kind of PTSD. I occasionally get some flash of some awful moment and shudder involuntarily. That novel deserves a miniseries (that doesn't suck.) I'm still so confused by all of King's remarks about it. I get that he's all about the friendship and not the quality/ sincerity of the adaptation, but it's like he goes out of his way to defend/ justify dreck. Or it's as you say with "Pet Sematary 2," he shit-talks Kubrick, for God's sake, for DECADES, but he defends "Under the Dome?" What a curious man.

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    1. Joey Pants would be unhappy about two-thirds of this list, one imagines (in a metaphorical sense, and maybe a literal one too for all I know).

      If you're getting accused of judging women differently in the context of the conversation about botched surgeries and Botox and whatnot, then I think you'd be well within your rights to say that it's only because women are seemingly held to a different standard. You're just reacting to that negatively, which seems to be highly appropriate. Who wouldn't?

      Men don't look any damn better when they do crap like that, either. It's just that there seem to be fewer examples of that happening, so there isn't the same complaint opportunity.

      Your theory about the hypothetical rich woman leading other rich women off the cliff seems reasonable to me. But, like, did these women not have eyes? Couldn't they see how awful it looked? My theory would be more that it was persuasive doctors behind the whole thing, taking advantage of people's natural tendencies toward both vanity AND self-deception.

      Regarding "Under the Dome," I can't remember where, but he made a fairly negative comment about the series once it had been canceled. I think this at one of his public-speaking engagements. So I think he soured on the series at some point during the process, which is to his credit. In a way, his support for the series was also to his credit; that must be a really difficult position to be in, especially if you are a producer on a series. With distance, though, "Under the Dome" has grown to be entirely indefensible, no doubt about it.

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    2. Ah yes, I forgot about that. That is good, and you're right, it must be a weird and uncomfortable position to be in.

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  3. "Adapfaketion"! Nice.

    I've still got to get to that "Return to Salem's Lot" blog. Maybe 2017 will be the year.

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    1. I'll be looking forward to that one for sure.

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  4. I watched "Graveyard Shift" again the other night. Sort of - it was background. That makes like 6 times in half as many years. WTF? I resisted leaving further comments on your blog for that one, but I thought of your write-up for Brad Dourif's performance during all of his scenes. That movie is some kind of terrible masterpiece, is how I justify my always going back to it. Every time I see it, too, the idea of the main character being a "college boy" gets funnier and funnier.

    "Kingdom Hospital" is a mess, it's true. That's another one I've come back to a few times, and each time different stuff pops out at me. I don't know anything behind the scenes with it, but it just feels like no one had an idea if they were doing a miniseries or a regular series or what, so the pacing and urgency and beats are all off or mismatched. I spend a lot of it trying to figure out which bits were directly transcribed from opiod hallucinations from King in recovery and which weren't. All in all, I enjoy trying to like it, is about how I'd put it.

    I want that complete box set of "Tales from the Darkside" too.

    Agreed - no excuse for what happened with 11.22.63. JJ Abrams is all about starting strong and whiz-bang references and recreations and plot-production-shortcuts, but then it's like he has ADHD and goes off somewhere else and others do a poor job of following his lead, if he even leaves one. But 11.22.63 specific, you nailed it: they failed to be able to take advantage of the property they had purchased.

    I'm happy Mark Pavia finally got another movie together. I meant to watch "The Night Flier" again this Halloween season and failed to. Not that I still can't. Anyway, I'm still confused what happened with "The Reaper's Image." He was posting about it so much and then wham: rug pulled out and nothing further. I certainly sympathize with the guy, but sheesh. Glad "Fender Bender" happened and I'm sure I'll be checking it out sooner or later.

    Molly Ringwald really IS awful as Frannie, although Frannie is not one of my favorite King characters to begin with. That said, this past rewatch really focused my attention on how hot she is throughout. I don't normally think of Molly Ringwald as a screen crush, personally, she never really did it for me back in the day. 2016-Bryan, though, finds 1994 Molly Ringwald very damn attractive. #Confessions Like you, though, rewatching it for blogging purposes helped me rediscover some of my original affection for it.

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    1. "Graveyard Shift" does have a replay value that many other films on this do not have. I mean, "Dolores Claiborne" is infinitely better in an aesthetic sense, but I'd rather watch "Graveyard Shift" most days. Or "Maximum Overdrive," for that matter. I wonder why that is. That's prime blog-post material for some day when I'm feeling like an existential exploration.

      I fault J.J. Abrams for "11.22.63" less than I fault the showrunner, Bridget Carpenter. It seems to be her who made the specifics of many of the decisions. And that's fine, except for how she talks in nearly every interview she did about having been a huge fan of King at large and the book in general. She probably was/is, but I'm not sure the finished product shows it. I'd have been unable to make some of the decisions she made; I'd have quit the project if that's what it took.

      If you want to hear Pavia's story from his own mouth, he made a podcast appearance in June promoting "Fender Bender" that explained it all. (http://www.blumhouse.com/2016/06/08/the-resurrection-of-a-hollywood-horror-director-a-candid-chat-with-mark-pavia-on-shock-waves/) It's fairly compelling stuff, and the short version of the story is this: bad luck combined with bad luck until he was perceived to be jinxed on account of all the bad luck he'd had. He sounds like a cool guy, though, and it's impossible for me not to root for him.

      Molly Ringwald is super-fine, no doubt about it. But in a specific way that I can't quite figure out. Good-girl-gone-wrong-except-not-really-all-that-wrong, maybe? I don't know. A matter worth further contemplation.

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    2. I've been on an anti-JJ kick for awhile; it's possible I seize any opportunity. I agree, though, Bridget Carpenter bears the brunt of the blame for how 11.22.63 shook out and particularly for the way she positioned herself in interviews.

      I'll have to give that podcast a spin, thanks for passing on the pertinent info, though.

      Good-girl-gone-wrong-except-not-really-all-that-wrong sounds about right to me. That'd be a fun list to get together. At the moment she's the only one I can place on it, but give me time.

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    3. That Shock Waves podcast also had a recent episode with Larry Cohen.

      http://podcast.blumhouse.com/episode-18-all-hail-king-larry-cohen

      He talks about "A Return to Salem's Lot" a little. All in all, he sounds like a guy whose work I need to see more of. He's obviously cut from the same cloth as Lloyd Kaufman, who I love.

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  5. Thanks for the Harold Faltermeyer shout-out. That post is sadly full of dead-links. I hate that.

    I guess I re-watched "Cat's Eye" not too long ago, too, come to think of it. I've been throwing that one on every so often since the 80s, though, it's just part of the background noise of my life for decades. This time around I was taken with the interim scenes between ghost-Drew-Barrymore and the cat, which make absolutely no sense, but there's a certain hey-randomly-psychic-child!-ness about it that cracked me up. King just can't help his damn self. I also like the way the parents are in the third story - they're distinguished by several little quirks and details that really make them seem like people. The size discrepancies are funny. And the weird shoehorning of "Every Breath You Take" into two different segments is so weirdly and specifically 80s. Lots to enjoy in that one. And I still think "Cat's Eye" should be the most popular karaoke song ever. (I can't figure out if the end credits song to "Cat's Eye" or to "Graveyard Shift" or to "Cujo" gets my WTF-is-this-now vote top spot.)

    I love that vintage ad for "Salem's Lot!" Very nice.

    Good lord (reading this "Christine" entry) I background-noise'd "Ghosts of Mars" recently, too. This is Bryan on autopilot: Cat's Eye, Graveyard Shift, Ghosts of Mars... I'm vaguely disturbed by this.

    Agreed on "Dolores Claiborne," both as a film and for Kathy Bates.

    I loved this updated list - thanks for helping me pass an otherwise uneventful morning. I opened up your previous rankings to see how your top tens have changed. For any other readers who enjoy such things, here's the changes: Dolores Claiborne moves from 10 in 2014 to #9 in 2016, Cujo and The Dead Zone jump into the top 10 and Room 237 and The Mist exit to make room for them, Storm of the Century loses a spot, Misery moves from #10 to #6, The Green Mile drops from #3 to #5, De Palma's Carrie (and happy to hear you've begun to appreciate that one more) and "Stand by Me" both move up a spot, and your # 1 and 2 are still the same.

    (Sorry to carpet bomb your comments. I'm sure I'll do the same when next you re-rank, so apologies in advance for that one, too.)

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    1. No apologies needed! I enjoy a good carpet-bombing; I've delivered one or two in my day, and will probably continue to do so.

      I listened to the Faltermeyer score for "The Running Man" yesterday while I was putting the finishing touches on this post. Good stuff. I love that music of that electronic sort has experienced such a resurgence. I hope John Williams-type thematic/symphonic scores will be next, but I think those days might be gone forever. If so, it's a shame; but I've got enough Williams to listen/relisten to to last me a lifetime, so I'm zen with it.

      Speaking of "Cat's Eye," I noticed yesterday something that I'd never consciously considered before: that you could put together a strong -- "strong" in a relative sense, of course -- compilation of tacky pop songs from King movies. "Cat's Eye" might be the pinnacle, although you've also got the two Ramones songs, the John Parr song from "The Running Man," that weirdo "Graveyard Shift" remix, the song from "Silver Bullet," the prom songs from the original "Carrie," "Who Made Who," and "Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?" I bet I've forgotten a few, too. Shit, man, I'd buy that album!

      I'm way overdue for watching "Ghosts of Mars" again. I need to upgrade to Blu-ray on that one.

      I kind of felt bad about "The Green Mile" dropping down a couple of spots, but its placement seems about right to me.

      Thanks for slogging through all of this!

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    2. It was a pleasure! Not a slog at all.

      Good idea for a King compilation album, for sure.

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  6. Mr. Burnette:

    I must respectfully take issue with your ranking of Riding the Bullet. I am one of those dozen or so who genuinely like the movie. I had no expectations for it, so I guess I couldn't have been disappointed. I'm not trying to be contrary, it just struck me as kind of a fun (for lack of a better word) movie. Nick Cage would have been worse than Arquette, way way worse. Way way way worse.

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    1. That's Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage you're referring to! Have some respect! (Difficult, I know.)

      No need to worry about being contrary. Be as contrary as you like, I won't mind; I'm always happy to hear a passionate defense of something I don't like. It might help me enjoy the movie more the next time I see it!

      A lack of expectation is a good way to approach any movie. I try that approach when I can, but I typically fail and then have to sort out the expectation from reality.

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  7. Totally agree with you on Apt Pupil. The tone is wrong from the start, it totally misses the black comedy of the story. It's just grandiose.

    I didn't mind Brad Renfro as much as you. Unfortunately, we know enough about Bryan Singer to realize he didn't cast him for his talent.

    It's really a shame that the version with Nicol Williamson and Ricky Schroder was never finished. I think the casting alone would have made it better; I can imagine Williamson really selling the pathetic old man part more than McKellen (good, but imposing from the start).

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    1. I'm guessing you're right about Singer / Renfro. That doesn't help me enjoy this movie, that's for sure.

      That's a good point about McKellan, and I think you may have just identified a big part of the reason why the movie doesn't work for me. I don't think I'd ever thought about it in that way, but yeah, he is a bit too forceful to be believable as a guy who's been in hiding for however many years.

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